Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on an announcement last March by Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards that he opposed capital punishment and points out that now Governor Edwards has the opportunity to prove his opposition. Professor Sarat argues that Governor Edwards should use his authority to order the Board of Pardons to hold hearings on the death row clemency petitions and review them on their merits to turn his abolitionist rhetoric into action.
UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar explains why the “New Illinois” idea—which suggests separating the urbanized Chicago area from the rest of the state—is legally and politically implausible. Professor Amar points out two unanswered constitutional questions and the daunting political hurdles that make the “New Illinois” idea unlikely to ever be more than an idea.
In this third in a series of columns about the Biden administration’s transfer of cluster mines to Ukraine, Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler explains why, even in the absence of a clear international violation, the transfer implicates the norm against cluster mine use. Professor Wexler describes cluster mine norms before the U.S. transfer to Ukraine and explains why, in her view, the transfer is problematic.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis, in which the Court ostensibly held that a Colorado public accommodations law was unconstitutional as applied to website designer Lorie Smith because it compelled her to create artistic content in violation of her religious beliefs. Professor Margulies argues that the decision has potentially far-reaching implications that could return us to the days of Jim Crow—all because the stipulated facts in that case seemed (to some Justices) to lead to an inescapable result.
Stanford Law visiting professor Joanna L. Grossman and professor Lawrence M. Friedman comment on the recent struggle over Aretha Franklin’s estate. Professors Grossman and Friedman describe the history of the law of wills, estates, and trusts, and explain why the disposition of Franklin’s estate may better reflect her intent and also aligns with the more modern approach toward understanding a person’s last will and testament.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on so-called quasi-death-penalty states, which have criminal laws authorizing capital punishment but have gone five years or more without executing anyone. Professor Sarat explains what it means that Ohio and Nebraska are joining the 15 other de facto abolition states and argues that, in the end, the fate of America’s death penalty will be decided as much in those places as in the few states which continue to carry out the bulk of this country’s executions.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut comments on today's announcement that federal district court judge Aileen Cannon set a May 2024 trial date in Donald Trump’s trial for obstructing justice and unlawfully taking and retaining national security documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left office. Mr. Aftergut points out that Judge Cannon “split the baby” by choosing a date between the proposals of Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s lawyers but argues that the decision reveals little about whether she will treat Trump more favorably than other criminal defendants.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on some lessons we should learn from the cases of two people scheduled to be executed today, July 20, 2023. Professor Sarat points out that the two cases—James Barber and Jemaine Cannon—demonstrate, respectively, that we are not executing “the worst of the worst” and that the execution methods we use are unreliable at best.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf considers the implications of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools in law schools. Professor Dorf observes that for now, smart, well-motivated students will outperform AI in most tasks required of law students, but legal educators will soon have to grapple with the reality that banning AI-based tools will make less and less sense as they become more mainstream various ways in legal practice.
In this second in a series of columns discussing the U.S. transfer of cluster munitions to Ukraine, Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler discusses the domestic issues for the United States and international law issues for Cluster Ban Treaty members. Professor Wexler also addresses arguments about Ukraine losing the moral high ground and weakening the alliance.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on recent comments by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh describing the Justices as respectful and restrained in their criticism of each other, despite written evidence in their opinions to the contrary. Professor Sarat points out the mocking and sometimes disparaging language that some Justices have used in discussing opposing views in the contentious cases of late.
In this three-part series of columns, Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on the recent news that the Biden administration will be providing cluster munitions to Ukraine. In this Part I, Professor Wexler explains what cluster munitions are, why the Biden administration decided to give them to Ukraine, the potential impact on civilian populations, and the international law issues the United States and Ukraine face as a result.
Touro Law professor Laura Dooley comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dupree v. Younger, which held that there is no procedural requirement that a litigant who lost a “purely legal” issue at the summary judgment stage file a post-trial Rule 50 motion to preserve that issue for appeal. Professor Dooley points out that while the procedural issue raised in Dupree is ostensibly technical, it implicates numerous policy and strategy matters at the core of civil litigation in federal courts.
Arbitrator and mediator Barry Winograd comments on the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in Coinbase v. Bielski, in which the Court held that a litigation stay is required when an interlocutory appeal permitted by Section 16(a) of the Federal Arbitration Act is taken from a federal district court order denying a motion to compel arbitration. Mr. Winograd summarizes the Coinbase decision, shares several thoughts about its reasoning, and considers the decision’s potential effects on arbitration practice.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat points out the hypocrisy of the Supreme Court in proclaiming the Constitution to be “colorblind” with respect to college admissions but turning a blind eye to blatant discrimination in the case of a Black man sentenced to death in Mississippi. Professor Sarat describes the facts of Clark v. Mississippi and argues that by refusing to act, the Supreme Court tacitly condones Mississippi’s blatant flaunting of the Court’s precedent.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut highlights two points about the federal district court’s July 4 decision blocking the Biden administration from communicating with social media companies—points which, Mr. Aftergut argues, underscore the decision’s risk of sowing great mistrust in law. Mr. Aftergut contrasts the apparent “judge shopping” that put the case before a Trump-appointed judge with the even-handed approach of Special Counsel Jack Smith, and he points out the opinion’s glaring omission of an especially relevant precedent.
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, history professor emeritus Frederick E. Hoxie reflects on the juxtaposition of the American Independence Day holiday and the prior week’s handful of Supreme Court decisions that usurp the ideal of self-government. Professor Hoxie argues that only by accepting one another and embracing our task as members of a lively democracy can we adopt effective rules for ourselves.
Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Moore v. Harper, in which the Court forcefully repudiated the essence of the so-called “Independent State Legislature” (ISL) theory. Dean Amar describes the apparent evolution of several Justices’ views on ISL theory and explains how that evolution led to the Court’s sound rejection of the theory.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf contrasts the present Supreme Court with the one Yale Law Professor Alexander Bickel praised in a Harvard Law Review article in 1961. Unlike the Court Bickel described, which manipulated its docket to strategically avoid difficult and divisive issues, Professor Dorf argues that the present Court manipulates its docket to decide those issues—and often without full briefing or oral argument.
In the spirit of American Independence Day, Amherst professor Austin Sarat suggests that we not only celebrate America’s ideals but also reflect on its failings—failings that include its continued use of capital punishment. Professor Sarat reiterates the problems with capital punishment, such as the ineffective and inhumane methods of execution, racial inequities, time on death row, and the fact that most of those we execute are victims of extensive abuse and neglect from childhood or earlier.