Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2020-03
Local Control: Massachusetts Law Provides Stronger Protection Against Sexual Harassment than Federal Law

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal district court applying Massachusetts law that demonstrates the power of tough state antidiscrimination laws. Grossman describes the facts of the case and the differences between Massachusetts and federal law and explains why robust state laws have the power to hold institutions liable when they delegate authority to those who abuse it.

Supreme Court Gives States the Green Light to Infringe Copyrights

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that Congress lacked constitutional authority to enact the Copyright Remedy Clarification Act of 1990, which gives individuals the right to sue a state for damages for copyright infringement. Dorf describes the complexity of the Court’s sovereign immunity doctrine and points out the Court’s peculiar failure to simply invalidate a portion of the statute while severing and preserving the valid portions and/or applications of it—which the Court has done in some other cases.

Whence Cometh Evil? Making Sense of Human Suffering and COVID-19

Surgeon and bioethicist Charles E. Binkley, MD, offers a perspective on how we might make sense of suffering, particularly in light of the present COVID-19 pandemic. Binkley suggests that through suffering, we are paradoxically able to find good, and in this instance, that good might be the practice of social reciprocity.

Is Retribution Worth the Cost?

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb discusses the four purported goals of the criminal justice system—deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, and rehabilitation—and argues that retribution may preclude rehabilitation. Colb considers whether restorative justice—wherein a victim has a conversation with the offender and talks about what he did to her and why it was wrong—might better serve the rehabilitative purpose than long prison sentences do.

What Should Democrats Do About Republicans’ Insistence on Lining Their Own Pockets With the Stimulus Plan?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan discusses the ongoing negotiations in Congress over the stimulus bill that would purportedly start to address the present economic crisis. Buchanan argues that while Democrats are right to try to stop Republicans from writing a huge unrestricted corporate handout into the bill, they will have to agree to something quickly—and the sooner the better.

Will Coronavirus Stop America from Carrying Out Executions?

Guest columnist Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—points out one unusual effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: deferring the executions of death row inmates. Sarat observes that while past pandemics have not affected the rate at which states have executed inmates, last week the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted 60-day stays in the execution sentences of two men, and other states seem poised to follow suit.

What Happens Now?

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies points out that in the face of the present COVID-19 pandemic, there seems to be general consensus nationwide that the federal government should intervene to mitigate the economic damage, even among those who very recently believed that social problems are better solved by the private sector than by the government. Margulies asks whether this new perspective will also evoke compassion. He points out that, given the expected duration of the fight against the novel coronavirus, $2,500 is not nearly sufficient for a struggling family of four who can no longer work. What will we do for the tens of millions of Americans facing disaster?

The Importance of Incorporating “Soft Skills” Into Your Legal Writing

Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and Schiff Hardin writing coach Julie S. Schrager explain the importance of incorporating “soft skills”—rooted in emotional intelligence and viewing your writing from your reader’s perspective—into legal writing. Amar and Schrager offer four key tips to help legal writers, whether first-year law students or seasoned attorneys, become more effective communicators.

Can the Republicans Cancel the Elections, Even Though Trump Can’t?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether (and how) President Trump or his supporters in Congress could cancel the 2020 elections, citing public safety as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Buchanan points out that because states control the procedures for the election, Trump would need Republican governors of certain blue states to shut down their state’s elections—something Buchanan stops short of saying is likely or unlikely.

The Lessons the Coronavirus Crisis Can Teach Us About the Religious Liberty that Serves the Public Good (aka the Framers’ Religious Liberty)

Marci A. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the country’s leading church-state scholars, describes some of the lessons the novel coronavirus pandemic can teach us about religious liberty. Hamilton points out that COVID-19 is nondenominational and nonpartisan, yet we are already seeing some groups claim to be exempt from the public-health prohibitions on large gatherings, on the basis of their religious beliefs.

The Perils of Relying on the Wrong Clause—Grounding the Ministerial Exception at the Supreme Court

GW Law professors Ira C. Lupu and Robert W. Tuttle explain why the path the U.S. Supreme Court might be about to take in ministerial exception cases—relying on the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment—is dangerously misguided. Lupu and Tuttle argue that the ministerial exception rests primarily on the Establishment Clause and is strictly limited to employment decisions about who leads or controls a faith community, or who transmits a faith.

Obey the Law

In light of a case currently on the U.S. Supreme Court’s docket for this term, UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin explains the importance of requiring employers and others to obey generally applicable laws not targeting specific religious practices—the result of the Court’s holding in Employment Division v. Smith. Griffin argues that it is hard to imagine a peaceful United States if organizations had a constitutional or statutory right to discriminate against all types of people.

When Is Optimism Actually Pessimism? When Trump Is President

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his discussion considering the future of the rule of law in the United States. Buchanan argues that even assuming a “long arc of American political history,” knowing that eventually, another group of heroes might rise is comforting only in a vague sense.

International Criminal Court Lacks Authority to Proceed Against Israel

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and JD candidate George Bogden, PhD, comment on a recent filing by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) asking the court to exercise jurisdiction and grant permission to pursue an investigation of alleged war crimes in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Estreicher and Bogden argue that because Israel is not a state party to the action and Palestine is not a state recognized by international law, the ICC lacks territorial jurisdiction under the Rome Statute.

Rethinking Generational Justice in Light of the Coronavirus Catastrophe

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf observes that the unfolding catastrophe of COVID-19, the now-pandemic caused by a novel coronavirus, will require all of us—whatever our politics, religion, race, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and age—to come together and unite to defeat it. Dorf builds upon insights by Verdict columnist and University of Florida Law professor Neil Buchanan that generational justice is the wrong lens through which to view questions about funding Social Security because the real distributional problems in our society exist in the here in now and require people to work together, not at cross-purposes.

Can A City Refuse Land-Use Permits Because it Doesn’t Like the Federal Policies the Property Will be Used to Implement?

Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains why a local government cannot constitutionally create policy discriminating against entities that do business with the feds. Specifically, Amar discusses a situation in which the city of Farland, California, is trying to prevent a privately operated state prison facility located in that city from contracting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

A Giant Departs the Federal Bench: Reflections on the Retirement of the Hon. Jack B. Weinstein

Touro law professor Jeffrey B. Morris reflects on the impressive career of the Honorable Jack B. Weinstein, who recently announced his retirement from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York at the age of 98. Morris praises Judge Weinstein for his skill and humanity as a jurist, pointing out the many ways his opinions, articles, and speeches reflect his belief that “aiding the weak and suffering is the primary duty and soul of American law.”

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