Amherst professor Austin Sarat reflects on capital punishment in 2022, pointing out that while it has continued its decades-long decline, it is still plagued with serious injustices. Professor Sarat argues that as abolitionists litigate to stop death sentences and executions, we must remember that the fight must ultimately be won in the political arena rather than only in the courts.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf reflects on what we might learn about criminal justice systems from FTX co-founder and former CEO Sam Bankman-Fried and his brief stay in a Bahamian prison. Professor Dorf points out that the prison where Bankman-Fried was detained has been described as “not fit for humanity”—not unlike many prisons in the United States and elsewhere. He argues that no one—regardless of wealth or social status—deserves that kind of suffering on top of their term of imprisonment.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on Monday’s news that the January 6 committee approved criminal referrals for former President Donald Trump, John Eastman, and others. Mr. Aftergut argues that consistent prosecution and conviction of those who engage in political violence—not only those who participated on January 6, but also those who have done so afterwards—are vital to deterring future disorder.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat argues that the Biden administration should join the rest of the world in officially opposing the death penalty by supporting the U.N. General Assembly’s resolution establishing a moratorium on executions. Professor Sarat points out that while supporting the resolution would not force the federal or state governments to change the status quo, it would put this country on record as committed to ending the death penalty—a particularly important accomplishment for a President who ran as an abolitionist.
SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which practically and symbolically enshrines protection for same-sex marriage in federal law. Professor Grossman explains the shameful history of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the changes effectuated by the Respect for Marriage Act.
UConn School of Law professor Julia Simon-Kerr comments on a case that squarely presents the question whether the courtroom demeanor and body language of a non-testifying defendant can play a role in the jury’s consideration of guilt or innocence. Professor Simon-Kerr points out that despite research showing no evidence that we can learn much, if anything, about a person’s untruthfulness from nonverbal cues, jurors frequently rely on those factors in deciding the credibility of witnesses and, apparently, even the culpability of non-testifying defendants. She suggests that it although it is unlikely the Supreme Court will agree to hear the case, the case presents the Court with a unique opportunity to begin a long overdue reexamination of the privileged role of demeanor in our system of proof.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar analyzes last week’s oral argument in the Moore v. Harper case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which raises the “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) theory. Dean Amar makes seven key observations, including that a majority of the Court seems poised to reject ISL’s basic textual premise but also a middle group of Justices seem inclined to retain U.S. Supreme Court oversight over state courts on issues of federal elections.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut points out that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in which it eliminated the constitutional right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade invigorated pro-choice activists to overturn abortion bans and enact more protections for women. Mr. Aftergut argues that this engagement will serve the rule of law by helping to avoid the widespread disobedience that threatens it.
Texas Law professor Jeffrey Abramson comments on the trial of disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, in which the jury has been deliberating since December 2 without reaching a verdict. Professor Abramson suggests that the jury may simply be working its way through the five weeks of testimony, and the only takeaway from the amount of time it is taking is that the justice system is working.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf explains the options available to the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis, which presents a clash between a Colorado law forbidding places of public accommodation from discriminating based on sexual orientation and a conservative Christian web designer’s objection to creating material that, she says, tacitly expresses approval of same-sex marriage. Professor Dorf points out that the Court could conclude that the case does not implicate free speech at all, but instead it will almost surely rule against Colorado, which could pose a potentially existential threat to anti-discrimination law.
Attorney Jon May discusses what offenses former President Donald Trump is likely to be charged with, and why the government may fail to convict him for any of those offenses. Specifically, Mr. May addresses the issues with each of the three statutes listed on the search warrant authorizing the search of Mar-a-Lago.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization American law’s worst moment of the year. Professor Sarat describes several other runners-up but explains why the Dobbs ultimately earns that distinction.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and California civil litigator Michael Schaps respond to the apparent view of a Georgia trial court judge that the current Supreme Court cannot retroactively affect the previous status (existence/non-existence) of a constitutional right found by a previous Court. Dean Amar and Mr. Schaps point out the flaws of this view and the absurd outcomes it would lead to if taken to its logical extension.