Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—argues that life sentences without the possibility of parole (LWOP) are as problematic and damaging as the death penalty. For this reason, Professor Sarat calls upon death penalty opponents to reconsider their support for LWOP sentences.
UF Levin College of Law professor Neil H. Buchanan argues that it is not only constitutional but necessary to review and nullify corrupt presidential pardons, including many of those granted by former President Trump. Professor Buchanan debunks the misconception that the presidential pardon power is “unlimited” as journalists have assumed, based on the language and context of the Pardon Clause and that of a seminal Supreme Court case interpreting it.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on the apparent increase in the number of law school applications this year and offers some thoughts as to the reasons behind the trend. Dean Amar suggests that increased job opportunities and heightened social awareness might be behind the higher numbers of applications.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a “father knows best” bill that the Tennessee state legislature is currently considering, which would allow the father of a pregnancy to obtain an injunction against the mother’s having an abortion. Professor Colb notes that while requiring consent of the pregnancy’s father might make intuitive sense and most abortion decisions do include the father, she points out that “father knows best” (and father notification) laws disregard the interests of the embryo/fetus (by giving a father a say in whether to proceed with an abortion) and redistribute control of reproduction from women to men. Professor Colb argues that for these reasons, the Tennessee bill is even more objectionable than an outright ban on the procedure would have been.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent law passed in New York that legalizes commercial surrogacy.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last week to reject an emergency application from the State of Alabama to lift a stay on the execution of Willie B. Smith III. Professor Dorf observes the Court’s unusual alignment of votes in the decision and argues that, particularly as reflected by the recent COVID-19 decisions, the liberal and conservative Justices have essentially swapped places from the seminal 1990 case Employment Division v. Smith, which established that the First Amendment does not guarantee a right to exceptions from neutral laws of general applicability.
UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court characterizing a “lay principal” at a Catholic school as a “minister” and therefore dismissing her claim under the Illinois Whistleblower Act under the so-called “ministerial exception.” Professor Griffin argues that the ministerial exception gives churches pure religious freedom to dismiss all legal claims against them, rendering them entirely unaccountable for their unlawful actions.
Illinois Law Dean Vikram David Amar comments on an unusual move by the U.S. Solicitor General’s office, sending a letter to the U.S. Supreme Court amending the position of the federal government in a case currently pending before the Court challenging the Affordable Care Act. Dean Amar explains why the arrival of a new administration should generally not trigger such position reversals, but he argues that the unusual circumstances—specifically the “exceptional implausibility” of the government’s prior filings—may justify the government’s action in this instance.
Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler explores the extent to which the role of famous, white, cis, heterosexual women as some of the most visible faces in the #MeToo movement helps or hinders the campaign. Professor Wexler proposes that conservation biology can help us understand the role of these celebrity women and harness their contributions to the #MeToo movement and also provide better assistance to other individuals and communities facing their own #MeToo struggles.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost and Associate Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Jurisprudence & Political Science at Amherst College—comments on the news that both houses of the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation abolishing the death penalty in that state. Professor Sarat explains why Virginia’s change in policy is so significant: it has executed more people than any other state and is the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line to abolish capital punishment.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and Elena J. Voss, associate general counsel for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, provide a roadmap of how employers can ready their workplaces for post-pandemic life. Professor Estreicher and Ms. Voss describe the importance of employers determining their workplace vision, communicating that vision to employees, defining what a “flexible” workplace means, setting clear policies with definitive maximums and minimums.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether a secret ballot is a good idea, or even permissible, in former President Trump’s impeachment trial. Professor Buchanan ultimately takes no position on the question of a secret ballot, suggesting that it might simply be an easy way out for Senate Republicans; he argues that what matters most is that the trial go forward, revealing an open-and-shut case against Donald Trump.
Charles E. Binkley, director of bioethics at Santa Clara University’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, describes some critical ethical issues raised by the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) systems for clinical decision support in medicine. Dr. Binkley calls for resolution of these issues before these emerging technologies are widely implemented.
Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a film called “Promising Young Women,” which purports to be a feminist movie about date rape. While Professor Colb describes the movie as interesting, thought-provoking, and “definitely” worth seeing, she argues that it suggests a view of men and sexual assault that is erroneous and potentially even anti-feminist.
Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, offers thoughts on the legal tactics and briefs filed by each side in former President Trump’s second impeachment trial. Mr. Falvy argues that if Trump can survive a second impeachment vote, it will show that he is still operating where he has always believed himself to be: well beyond the reach of the law.
Illinois law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone argue that the constitutional ambiguity over who may preside over former President Trump’s second impeachment trial supports the conclusion that the Senate should ask Chief Justice John Roberts to preside. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone explain why other people—such as Senate President Pro Tempore, the Vice President, and any other senator—are not ideal options because of real or perceived conflicts.
Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why Trump v. Sierra Club, a challenge to President Trump’s border wall currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, exemplifies the needless complexity of federal court gatekeeping law. Professor Dorf lists the various legal doctrines that restrict access to the federal courts and argues that their number and complexity tend to undercut, rather than serve, justice.
Illinois law professor Lesley M. Wexler and Nicola Sharpe discuss various corporate responses to the recent storming of Capitol Hill and consider whether such responses might constitute private transitional justice. Professors Wexler and Sharpe point out, however, that simply vocalizing a commitment to social justice, diversity, and inclusivity is not enough; corporations should diversify boards and leadership representation and take other quantifiable steps that transform corporate culture and processes.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on an executive order the Biden administration issued last week revoking the so-called Mexico City policy, which provided that foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who received U.S. international family planning assistance could not offer abortion services, even if the services were funded with non-U.S. money. Grossman hails the decision as a good start but argues that more is needed to meaningfully undo the harmful policies of the Trump administration because of its implementation of a “domestic gag rule” in addition to the global one.