Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2020-01
The Law Will Not Save Us

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies reminds us that the rule of law exists in the United States primarily to conceal politics; that is, one cannot rely on having “the law” on one’s side if politics are opposed. Margulies illustrates this point by replacing “the lawyers reviewed the law and decided” with “the high priests studied the entrails and decided”—a substitution that ultimately yields the same results.

The Unacknowledged Clash Between the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of the Religion Clauses and the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and UC Davis law professor emeritus Alan Brownstein comment on a largely unacknowledged clash between religious accommodations and exemptions on the one hand, and core free speech principles which the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized, on the other. Amar and Brownstein describe this apparent conflict and suggest that the Court begin to resolve the conflict when it decides two cases later this term presenting the question of the scope of the “ministerial exception.”

What Will the Court Say About Religious Freedom?

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on the oral argument the U.S. Supreme Court heard this week in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which presents the justices with questions about the meaning of the Free Exercise and Establishment Clauses of the First Amendment. Griffin describes the questioning by the justices and predicts that the outcome in this case will demonstrate how many justices still believe in the separation of church and state.

The Equal Rights Amendment and Article V

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the possible consequences of the Virginia legislature’s ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) just last week, becoming the 38th state to do so. Dorf explains why there remains a question as to the validity of Virginia’s ratification, given the Amendment’s purported deadline, and explains why both liberals and conservatives alike should urge Congress to deem the ERA now valid.

The Framers Would Want You to Know: Alan Dershowitz Is Wrong About Impeachment, and So Is the President

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that abuse of power is a sufficient ground for presidential impeachment, notwithstanding the argument to the contrary by President Trump’s impeachment defense lawyer, Alan Dershowitz. Hamilton explains that abuse of power by the President was the very fear of the Framers of the Constitution, and to reject it as an impeachable offense would subvert the spirit of the Constitution, as evidenced by the Framers’ debates at the Constitutional Convention.

The Intra-Party Fight Among the Democratic Candidates Is Necessary and Healthy

UF law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the Democratic presidential candidates attacking each other over policy differences and other issues rather than unifying to oppose President Trump in the general election. Buchanan argues that, perhaps illogically, the infighting is essential and a healthy part of the process.

You Have the Right to the Silent Treatment

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb proposes the psychological effects of the “silent treatment” as a possible reason that arrested individuals who understand their Miranda rights nevertheless confess to the police. Rather than seeking to dispute or displace other explanations of the phenomenon, Colb suggests that when police leave a suspect alone in his cell, he may experience their exit as the silent treatment and confess as an attempt to end it.

Dear Harvey: You Are the Spark that Started the #MeToo Movement

Joanna L. Grossman, law professor at SMU Dedman School of Law, reviews how disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein started the #MeToo movement. Grossman details the origins of the #MeToo movement, particularly Weinstein’s role, and describes how Weinstein’s despicable behavior helped to illuminate and begin to address sexual misconduct not only by individuals, but throughout entire industries.

Senate Secrecy: Can the Votes of Senators on President Trump’s Impeachment be Withheld from the Voting Public?

Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone evaluate the suggestion made by some that the votes of senators on President Trump’s impeachment can and should be private. Amar and Mazzone argue that while the text of the Constitution alone does not foreclose secrecy, structural, prudential, and logistical considerations strongly disfavor a secret vote on the matter.

Is John Roberts a Closeted Never-Trumper? Reading Between the Lines of the Chief Justice’s Year-End Report

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf offers one interpretation of Chief Justice John Roberts’s annual year-end report on the federal judiciary—that the Chief Justice intends to serve as a modest counterbalance to President Trump. Dorf supports his interpretation with text and context of the year-end report but offers his cautious praise to the Chief Justice with a few important caveats as well.

Impeachment of the President Normally Requires a Crime

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and 3L Christopher S. Owens discuss the unique situation of the impeachment of a U.S. President for conduct not alleged to be a crime. Looking to both text and history, Estreicher and Owens argue that commission of a particular, defined crime should be necessary for presidential impeachment for the preservation of the legitimacy and original purpose of that political device, particularly in polarized times such as these.

2019 Is the Year We Reached the Tipping Point for Sex Abuse and Assault Victims to Receive Justice: 2020 Will Be Even Better for SOL Reform

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, reviews the 2019 victories of victims of child sex abuse and assault and describes what needs to happen in 2020 to further secure justice for them.

Can a President Who Is Reelected After Being Acquitted in One Impeachment Case be Retried by a Subsequent Senate?

Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar considers whether a President who has been impeached and acquitted may, if reelected, be retried by a subsequent Senate. Amar acknowledges that it is unclear whether the Fifth and Sixth Amendments’ criminal procedural protections apply to impeachment proceedings, but he offers two key reasons that re-litigation of impeachment allegations after presidential reelection would be improper.

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 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

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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