Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson comments on two jury verdicts last week—the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and the conviction of three men who attacked and killed Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia—that demonstrate our country’s division over race, guns, vigilantism, and self-defense. Professor Abramson notes that when evidence is borderline, as it was in the Rittenhouse trial, jurors are “liberated” to decide on the basis of their own sentiments and values. Professor Abramson argues that the rushed jury selection process in the Rittenhouse trial effectively placed the Second Amendment, rather than the individual defendant himself, on trial.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat calls upon California Governor Gavin Newsom to ask the state legislature to end capital punishment. Professor Sarat explains why this route is superior to the direct democracy route (which failed in both 2012 and 2016) and why it’s so important that California abolish the death penalty.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why Democrats should accept without further delay Senator Mitch McConnell’s offer of a streamlined process to pass a debt ceiling increase via the reconciliation process. Professor Dorf points out that due to opposition to filibuster reform by Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, this is the only way to avoid an economic catastrophe as a result of the debt ceiling crisis.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone explain why a recent ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit egregiously misunderstands the Commerce Clause issues presented in several lawsuits challenging the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)’s authority to mandate vaccine and testing requirements for large employers. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone focus on three ways in which the Fifth Circuit gets it wrong and expresses hope that the Sixth Circuit, which is where the lawsuits have been consolidated, does better.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains why the not guilty verdict of Kyle Rittenhouse sends a powerful message condoning vigilantism, particularly when coupled with the Texas law that authorizes private enforcement of its extreme prohibitions on abortion. Professor Sarat argues that vigilantism, including these instances, has historically taken root in times of social, cultural, and political transition, and in places with high levels of cultural diversity and institutional instability
NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and 3L Ryan Amelio comment on the unusual move by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decision to require employee vaccinations for employers with a total of 100 or more employees. Estreicher and Amelio explain why it is unclear whether the Agency has authority to mandate vaccinations and testing.
UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why the present political situation is somewhat like the plot of Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory,” in that a supposedly preferable solution involves throwing powerless people to the wolves, simply for other people’s benefit.
Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on a case in which a Massachusetts court affirmed Harvard’s ownership over several slave daguerreotypes despite the horrific and now criminal conditions under which the pictures were taken. Professor Wexler argues that the double injustice of mistreating enslaved people and using them to prove a theory of their lesser-than status calls for application of transitional justice principles, not ordinary law.
NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and appellate lawyers Rex Heinke and Susan Yorke discuss a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in which the appellate court reinstated California AB 51, which prohibits employers from conditioning employment on an applicant’s waiver of various rights, including the right to litigate. The authors note that the ruling creates a circuit split and may even be at odds with recent Supreme Court case law.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explores the meaning of a question Justice Clarence Thomas asked during the oral argument in New. York State Rifle. & Pistol Association v. Bruen about the interpretation of the Second Amendment: “should we look at the founding, or should we look at the time of the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, which then, of course, applies it to the states?” Professor Dorf argues that the question exposes a weakness of Justice Thomas’s originalist philosophy and affirms what we already know about arguments rooted in original meaning: they typically serve a rhetorical function, and Justices invoke them to justify decisions taken on other, ideological, grounds.
Amherst College professor Austin Sarat points out that botched executions are commonplace in the United States and that their frequency has only increased during the last decade as states have experimented with different lethal injection drugs and drug combinations. Professor Sarat critiques the way journalists tend to cover these botched executions and argues that civil society needs to view these errors as routine, rather than as mistakes. The only way to break this pattern, he argues, is to stop altogether the practice of using death as a punishment.
Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explains why “abortion pride”—in the sense of coming out about having had an abortion—can help eliminate the shame and stigma associated with the procedure. Professor Colb points out that just as gay pride is more than simply pride in one’s sexual attractions but the creation of a community of people with like experiences, abortion pride can potentially reduce the need for specially designated support groups and help them chat unselfconsciously with other people with similar experiences.
In this fourth in a series of columns about the U.S. military drone strike in Kabul that killed ten civilians (including seven children), Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler considers whether the United States has now satisfactorily provided the recommended amends and discusses what more ought to be done. As to what more is needed, Professor Wexler suggests congressional review of the incident, chain of command accountability decisions, and a broader review of drone strikes.
In this second in a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan shows how much of a stretch it would be to say—as conservatives are saying—that all taxes on wealth are unconstitutional and that all progressive taxes are taxes on wealth. Professor Buchanan argues that even if the now-defunct Billionaires Tax proposed by Democrats were a tax on wealth, rather than income, that classification would still not categorically violate the Constitution.
In this first of a series of columns, UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan explains why, even though Democrats’ so-called Billionaires Tax is not moving forward, there is much to learn from the flurry of commentary published just before it failed. Professor Buchanan explains how easy it would be for a motivated Supreme Court to mangle logic and precedent to make it more difficult for Congress to enact taxes that would collect revenues from the richest Americans, even if the United States soon becomes a one-party autocracy under permanent Republican, non-majoritarian rule.