Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2018-09

What Do the Cases Involving Bill Cosby, Clergy Sex Abuse, and Brett Kavanaugh Have in Common? Powerful Men Who Think Themselves Powerful Enough to Make Credible Accusations Disappear, But They Are Wrong

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how Bill Cosby, Catholic clergy, and Brett Kavanaugh are all in different stages in the justice system but cut from the same cloth. Hamilton points out that in the era of #MeToo, powerful men can no longer evade credible serial accusations of sexual misconduct.

A Picnic, A Jew, and the Surrender of Critical Judgment

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb observes that we as a society have become extremely credulous for an era of cynicism and that we as individuals have divested ourselves of critical judgment, preferring instead to defer to people who share our political ideology or qualify for special status for some other reason. Colb considers what might be driving this deference and how we can combat it. She points out that constructive disagreement is healthy and that “viewpoints are not violence, disagreement is not hatred, and no one has a patent on the truth.”

Moral Statutes of Limitation and Restorative Justice for #MeToo Claimants

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler considers whether there should be a moral (as opposed to legal) statute of limitations for wrongdoing and specifically what obligations a person who long ago committed sexual harassment or sexual assault owes his victim. Wexler proposes a model based on restorative justice principles that would involve acknowledgement of wrongdoing and of the victim and her account; responsibility taking, harm repair, a promise of non-repetition, and subsequent actions that demonstrate a commitment to that promise of non-repetition.

What Legal Effect, If Any, Can Recent State Ratifications (Including Illinois’s Earlier this Summer) of the Equal Rights Amendment Have?

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether the recent purported ratifications by Nevada and Illinois of the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution, proposed in 1972, have any legal effect. Amar proposes seven questions and answers raised by these states’ actions and argues that even if a 38th state were to ostensibly ratify that amendment (the number needed to amend the Constitution), it could not be considered part of the Constitution.

What Kavanaugh Could Have Said, But Didn’t: “I Honestly Don’t Know What Happened, and I’m Willing to Accept the Senate’s Judgment”

GW Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan writes a letter that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh could have written (but didn’t) in response to allegations that he sexually assaulted and attempted to rape a 15-year-old girl when he was a 17-year-old high school student. Using a fictional letter as a rhetorical device, Buchanan points out that Kavanaugh could have acknowledged that he, like anyone who has ever drunk to excess, does not recall exactly what he did or did not do while drunk, particularly on the night in question, but instead, Kavanaugh flatly denied that the allegations could be true. Buchanan argues that Kavanaugh’s response to the allegations demonstrates that he does not belong on the US Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh Must Consider Withdrawing: No More Liars on the High Court, Please!

John W. Dean, former White House counsel to President Richard Nixon, shares the statement he made to the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 7, 2018, during the confirmation hearings of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. Dean also argues that Judge Kavanaugh’s denials of lying under oath in his earlier 2004 and 2006 confirmation proceedings, and the fact that he must now lie under oath again to get confirmed to the Supreme Court, have disqualified him for the job.

Can a Vegan Win the Presidency?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf considers whether a vegan generally, and New Jersey Democratic Senator Cory Booker specifically, would have a shot of winning the presidency in 2020. Dorf explains how food plays an important role in politics and considers whether the election of a vegan to the highest office in the land is likely to hurt or help the vegan movement.

Fear Itself: What Bob Woodward Finds in Trump’s “Crazytown”—and What He Doesn’t Look For

Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law, critically reviews of Bob Woodward’s Fear: Trump in the White House (Simon & Schuster, 2018), finding that while the book adds considerable detail to our portrait of Trump’s behavior in office, it overlooks (or ignores) much of the larger picture of President Trump’s character, career, and presidency. Falvy takes a close look at both the substance and style of Fear, delving into the strengths and limitations of Woodward’s “free indirect” style of narrative as well as the substance of his insider interviews, especially that of Trump’s former personal attorney John Dowd. Falvy predicts that Dowd’s statement to Woodward that Trump is a habitual liar lays the groundwork for a final line of defense for Trump: that even Trump’s own statements cannot be reliable evidence of obstruction of justice or other crimes.

The United States Olympic Committee and the USA Gymnastics NGB Need to Be Dissolved and Reconstituted

Marci A. Hamilton, professor and resident senior fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, calls upon Congress to dissolve and reconstitute the United States Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics due to their inept handling of child sex abuse within those organizations. Hamilton points out that private organizations have boards of directors who shoulder responsibility for correcting actions of their organizations, but Congress must act when the bad actors are within national governmental bodies (NGBs) such as USOC and USA Gymnastics.

“Factory Farming”: An Evolving Phrase

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb describes the evolution of the phrase “factory farming” from its original meaning of animal agriculture generally, to a much narrower (and less meaningful) definition today. Colb points out that descriptors of so-called “humane” animal agriculture practices—organic, local, sustainable, grass fed, cage free, and similar phrases—are not meaningfully better than the supposedly evil factory farming. Colb draws an analogy to the misogynist’s argument that “violent rape” is distinguishable and “worse” than other types of rape.

Texas Judges Give Unconstitutional Fetal Remains Law a Proper Burial

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a Republican-appointed federal judge striking down (yet another) unconstitutional Texas law that would have required embryonic and fetal remains to be given a “proper” burial. Grossman explains that the judge correctly found the Texas law would have placed an undue burden on women while its purported benefits were “de minimis” at best, in violation of the US Supreme Court’s decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

About That Op-Ed: Ideological Consensus Trumps Political Demagoguery

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies explains how the recent anonymous op-ed published in The New York Times underscores the fundamental continuity between the Obama and Trump administrations on issues of national security. As Margulies observes, our approach to national security in the post-9/11 world has achieved hegemonic status, but we should hope that some future president might not share the same hegemonic view of transnational terror and instead may try to set national security on a different course.

How Bad Will Things Become? Part Two: The Court’s New Extremist Majority Will Be Truly Radical

In this second part of a series of columns, GW law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers how the United States, and indeed the world, would shift substantially to the right with a Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Buchanan explains not only what might change, but how we can expect that change to come about, as well.

What the FBI Knew: The Case Against the Rosenbergs From the Investigators’ Perspective

Sixty-five years after the deaths of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Touro Law Center professor Rodger Citron reviews Howard Blum’s In the Enemy’s House: The Secret Saga of the FBI Agent and the Code Breaker Who Caught the Russian Spies (HarperCollins 2018). Citron describes how Blum’s telling of the story adds to the story of the Rosenbergs by focusing on Bob Lamphere and Meredith Gardner—two men who pursued Soviet spies for years—and explains how the story of the Rosenbergs has continued relevance today.

Trump Can Destroy NAFTA Alone But Cannot Replace It Without Congressional Help

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why President Trump can unilaterally undermine NAFTA but cannot act to replace it without help from Congress. Dorf distinguishes treaties from “congressional-executive agreements” (NAFTA is an example of the latter), and he points out that any new agreement Trump seeks to enter with Canada and Mexico that differs in any substantial way from NAFTA can only become effective upon the passage of new legislation by Congress.

Why It’s Hard for “Independent” Investigations Like the One Concerning Ohio State’s Football Coach Urban Meyer to be Meaningfully Independent

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses the controversy over the so-called “independent investigation” into Ohio State’s football coach Urban Meyer’s handling of domestic violence allegations against one of his longtime assistant coaches, Zach Smith. Amar explains that the investigation is hardly “independent” in any sense of the word when it is funded by the very organization (the university) who has the greatest interest in its findings, and he uses the paradigm of the political system to propose an alternative, truly independent option.

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 is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George... 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 Robert A. Fox Leadership Program 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

Anita Ramasastry
Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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