Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2022-01
Alabama’s Execution of Matthew Reeves Signals Methods of Execution Mess in the U.S.

Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision to allow Alabama to execute Matthew Reeves, an intellectually disabled death row inmate, by lethal injection rather than by his preferred method of nitrogen hypoxia. Professor Sarat explains why giving death row inmates a choice over their “preferred” method of execution is perverse and argues that the words “humane” and “execution” do not belong in the same sentence, no matter what method is used.

Judge’s Ruling Helps January 6 Committee Zero in on Trump Lawyer’s Emails

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, explains how a recent ruling by a federal judge in Santa Ana, California, helps the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 attack get closer to obtaining emails from former Trump lawyer John Eastman. Mr. Aftergut argues that disclosure of Eastman’s emails would advance the committee’s search for truth, and with it, strengthened hope for preventing another insurrection.

Justice Breyer’s Legacy

In light of the news of Justice Stephen Breyer’s imminent retirement, Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf reflects on Justice Breyer’s career. Professor Dorf observes that Justice Breyer lacks a distinctive legacy largely for two reasons: (1) he was junior to O’Connor, Kennedy, and Ginsburg for their time on the Court together and thus did not get key liberal assignments, and (2) as a pragmatist and compromiser, his reasoning relied more on nuance than on bold strokes.

The Last Anniversary of Roe v. Wade: A Time to Reimagine Abortion Rights for All

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes the devastating short-term impact of eliminating federal constitutional protection for abortion which the U.S. Supreme Court seems likely to do imminently. Professor Grossman observes that even now, while constitutional protection for abortion exists, many pregnant women already face significant barriers to abortion care, reminding us that we need to work towards a future that is more protective and more equal rather than just trying to claw our way back to the bare minimum provided by Roe v. Wade.

Forced Pregnancy, Homophobia, and Child Marriage: How Religion Enables Abuse

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb describes how religion gives an air of respectability to many cruel and reprehensible practices, such as forcing people to carry pregnancies to term, homophobia, and child marriage. Professor Colb argues that Americans’ commitment to “respecting everyone’s religion,” however coercive, violent, or misogynistic, precludes an actual respect for the bodily integrity, liberty, and privacy of women, LGBTQI+ people, and girls.

Supreme Court to Decide Between Establishment and Free Exercise in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District

UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on a recent case the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear that presents an apparent conflict between the Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment. Professor Griffin describes the background of the case, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and explains the significance of the legal issues at stake.

The Supreme Court’s Stealth Attack on Expertise Helps Pave the Way for Authoritarianism

Amherst professor Austin Sarat and former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut point out that in the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Department of Labor, the conservative majority continues the right-wing assault on knowledge and expertise. Professor Sarat and Mr. Aftergut argue that the conservative attack on regulatory agencies and the expertise they represent is a classic indicator of creeping totalitarianism—the blurring of the distinction between fact and fiction.

Prisoners Should Not Be Used as Human Guinea Pigs in COVID-19 Cultural Wars

Amherst professor Austin Sarat responds to recent news that officials in Arkansas’s Washington County Detention Center have been administering ivermectin to prison inmates without their knowledge or consent. Professor Sarat argues that this coercive and unethical practice effectively treats them as human guinea pigs, violating their dignity and autonomy in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Where Else to Move?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan continues his consideration of where Americans privileged enough to be able to move might be able to go to escape an increasingly authoritarian United States. Professor Buchanan offers some additional thoughts about the United Kingdom (the focus of his last Verdict column) and explores the possibility of Canada. He points out that the problem of expatriation in response to political instability and violence directly or indirectly affects both those who move and those who remain behind.

Criminal Justice and the Problem of the In Between

Cornell law professor Joseph Margulies describes the ambivalence and fear many of us feel toward the “in between”—the space between where we are today and where we imagine we could be. Professor Margulies points out that if we allow it, the fear of the in between will always keep us from the world we deserve, so we must find the courage to push past the fear.

Can the Public Trust that an Unmasked Justice Gorsuch was Unbiased About Mandates?

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf asks whether we can trust that Justice Neil Gorsuch—who was the sole Justice not to wear a mask during oral arguments last week—was unbiased in considering two challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. Professor Dorf argues that Justice Gorsuch’s refusal to wear a mask indicates that he either does not believe the public health guidance or thinks he should be free to decide for himself whether to follow it—both of which possibilities undercut public confidence in the basis for his votes in the vaccine cases.

Remembering Brett Kavanaugh

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb praises Ruth Marcus’s 2019 book, Supreme Ambition, about Brett Kavanaugh’s rise to power and the events that took place after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford accused him of sexual assault. Professor Colb notes that the book is engaging even for someone who closely followed the events as they occurred, and reflects on the trauma of living (and reliving) through that disillusioning period in our nation’s recent history.

Where to Move?

UF Levin College of Law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers where, if anywhere, Americans looking to emigrate from a dying democracy might land. After pointing out that guns are the largest threat to safety in the United States and that practically anywhere else would be safer, Professor Buchanan considers whether the UK is a viable choice, given that the ugliness that has emerged in the United States is being mirrored there to a concerning degree.

In the Sentencing of Ahmaud Arbery’s Killers, the Justice System Operated at its Best

Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that the sentencing of Ahmaud Arbery’s killers last week demonstrated institutions and individuals within the judicial system operating at their best. Mr. Aftergut praises Judge Timothy Walmsley in particular for listening attentively to the victim impact statements and for deliberating on them before handing down the sentences.

Potential Juror Misconduct Threatens Ghislaine Maxwell Convictions

Texas law professor Jeffrey Abramson comments on a recent development in Ghislaine Maxwell’s jury trial for sex trafficking young girls to Jeffrey Epstein. Professor Abramson considers whether and to what extent Juror 50’s failure to disclose that he had been the victim of child sex abuse may upset the verdicts.

What the January 6 Committee Can Do to Persuade Independent Voters

Amherst professor Austin Sarat explains why it is so important that the hearings by the House Select Committee on the events of January 6, 2021, be and appear to be fair. Professor Sarat argues that an atmosphere of fairness and seriousness, similar to that of the Watergate hearings in 1973, is necessary not only to persuade independents about what happened behind the scenes on January 6, but also to turn the committee’s findings into a voting issue.

A Year After the Capitol Insurrection, the Threat is Coming from Inside the Building

In light of the approaching one-year anniversary of the January 6 Capitol Insurrection, Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf argues that the next assault on American democracy could come from within the Capitol and other institutions of American democracy. Professor Dorf points out that the phrase “political violence” is an oxymoron in the context of a democracy; to practice democratic politics is to accept a common set of ground rules for resolving policy disputes peacefully, and when the loser of an election uses violence to try to change the result, democratic politics ceases functioning.

Hidden Harm and the Short Reach of Traditional Tort Remedies

Kathryn Robb, executive director of CHILD USAdvocacy, explains how and why child sexual abuse is more insidious and long-lasting than “typical” civil wrongs recognized by law. Robb points out that while survivors of child sexual abuse may lack the physical injuries that the law and jurors often look for, they carry deeper wounds that affect their entire bodies and minds well into adulthood.

Why Prisons Are Criminogenic

Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies argues that prisons increase rather than decrease the likelihood that a person will find himself back in prison because the scarcity on the inside of nearly everything valuable requires illicit behavior and rewards violence. Professor Margulies observes that scarcity of essential goods in prison, such as food, medical care, contact with loved ones, etc., all but demands active participation in ongoing criminality and encourages prisoners to develop and refine the capacity for violence.

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

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

Samuel Estreicher
Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment... more

Leslie C. Griffin
Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las... 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

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Austin Sarat
Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

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