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.
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.
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.
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.
Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, comments on a public-health crisis that is getting relatively less attention right now: the scourge of child sex abuse. To address this crisis, Robb calls for greater public awareness, stronger laws protecting children, and legislative action
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf implores the President or Congress to act swiftly and drastically to address the COVID-19 pandemic: lock down the nation and suspend habeas corpus. Dorf explains why this extreme measure is both appropriate and necessary in a situation such as this one.
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.
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.
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).
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb argues that while consent is an important and necessary condition of many activities in which adults engage, it does not necessarily follow that consent is a sufficient condition as well. Colb describes some circumstances in which the apparent consent of the parties does not make the result desirable or good.
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.”