Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler explores the complexities of the concept of “proportionality” in the Israel-Gaza conflict, examining it both from the lens of international law and public opinion. Professor Wexler delineates two aspects of international law that govern proportionality: “jus ad bellum,” which speaks to when force is permissible, and the laws of war, which set guidelines for conduct during conflict. She emphasizes that while public debates often conflate legal and moral considerations, a nuanced understanding of existing international law is crucial for assessing the legality of actions in such conflicts.
Notwithstanding some recent competition, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) remains the most widely used and accepted standardized test considered by American law schools to admit new students to law school. That is why it is significant news that the President/CEO of the Law School Admission Council (LSAC), the organization responsible for designing, administering, and grading the LSAT, recently announced changes to the LSAT’s format, beginning in August 2024.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat discusses the complex and often costly nature of exercising free speech, particularly in the wake of controversial statements made by universities and their students about the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on October 7. Professor Sarat highlights the backlash faced by those who have spoken out, from university donors withdrawing support to law firms rescinding job offers, and he argues that while free speech is a right, it is not without significant repercussions—both socially and professionally.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut argues that the election of Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House by House Republicans will likely harm the GOP in upcoming elections. Mr. Aftergut describes at least five reasons, including Johnson’s staunch anti-abortion stance, his role in perpetuating election denialism, his lack of experience in national fundraising, and various policy positions that could alienate swing voters and jeopardize the GOP’s chances in 2024.
UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the upcoming Supreme Court case, Moore v. United States, which involves a tax issue concerning a husband and wife who are shareholders in a company located in India. Professor Amar argues in this column and in his amicus brief, which he co-authored with Professor Akhil Amar, that the tax in question is constitutional, drawing support largely from the Supreme Court’s 1796 case Hylton v. United States.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf discusses the effect and implications of Texas’s SB8 law and Missouri’s Second Amendment Preservation Act (SAPA) on federal law and the judiciary. Professor Dorf argues that both laws employ a strategy to circumvent federal court review, but suggests there may be growing recognition among Supreme Court Justices of the dangers posed by such laws, which seek to undermine federal authority and judicial review.
NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher and JD candidate Alexander Gelfond discuss the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) proposed rule to ban all non-compete clauses in employment agreements, examining the agency’s four main justifications: that non-competes reduce workers’ wages, stifle new business and innovation, exploit workers, and are unnecessary for protecting trade secrets. While supportive of a limited ban on non-competes for workers without access to trade secrets, Professor Estreicher and Mr. Gelfond argue that the FTC needs to further justify its proposed nationwide ban, especially considering potential drawbacks like reduced worker training and lower investment in capital assets.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes a series of recent setbacks for former President Donald Trump, both legally and politically: key legal figures like Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro pled guilty and agreed to be cooperating witnesses in a Georgia RICO case against him, while his political endorsements and foreign policy comments have been met with criticism from both Republican opponents and his own base. Professor Sarat concludes that this bad week for Trump was a good week for democracy and the rule of law in the United States.
Criminal defense attorney Jon May critiques an argument by Harvard Professor Emeritus Laurence Tribe and Judge Michael Luttig that Donald Trump is automatically disqualified from running for President again under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, even without a conviction for insurrection. Mr. May contends that such a reading of Section 3 could lead to political chaos and civil unrest, and argues that the U.S. Supreme Court, which has the ultimate say, may not endorse a self-executing interpretation that could have such far-reaching and divisive consequences.
Cornell professor Joseph Margulies criticizes a recent article by the New York Times that focuses on Rudy Giuliani’s drinking habits, questioning its relevance to the prosecution of Donald Trump and suggesting that the article engages in public shaming. Professor Margulies argues that while Giuliani’s public behavior may be worthy of scrutiny, his personal struggles with alcohol should not be the subject of journalistic attention, especially when they have no proven relevance to his professional advice to Trump.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat criticizes the response of U.S. college and university administrators to the October 7 Hamas attacks, highlighting perceived inconsistencies in their reactions to different forms of hatred and violence. Professor Sarat also explores broader issues around the treatment of Jewish students on campus, citing statistics on declining enrollment in Ivy League schools, increased incidents of anti-Semitism, and a lack of targeted diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives for Jewish students.
NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision striking down the use of racial preferences in college admissions at Harvard and the University of North Carolina, creating uncertainty about the future of affirmative action in both higher education and employment. Professor Estreicher points out that while the Court opposed the “outright racial balancing” used by the universities, it left room for race-based “make whole” remedies in cases of proven intentional discrimination, raising questions about the permissible extent of race-based remediation and its applicability in various contexts, including employment.
UC Davis Law professor Vikram David Amar and Yale College senior Ethan Yan discuss the complexities and legal questions around a potential U.S. Senate vacancy in New Jersey, focusing on the current political situation surrounding Senator Bob Menendez. Professor Amar and Mr. Yan conclude that while New Jersey law allows Governor Phil Murphy considerable discretion in filling a Senate vacancy, including the possibility of appointing his wife Tammy, such a move would likely be politically damaging, even if constitutionally permissible.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat describes how Fox News personality Greg Gutfeld has escalated right-wing attacks on American democracy by suggesting that elections are futile and calling for civil war as the only solution to the country's problems. Professor Sarat warns that Gutfeld’s rhetoric, unrepudiated by Fox News, poses an urgent threat to democracy and calls on the media and political leadership to educate the public on the dangers of such a mindset.
Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf analyzes whether the U.S. House of Representatives can choose a Speaker who is not a current member of Congress. While conventional wisdom suggests that a non-member could serve as Speaker due to the lack of explicit qualifications in the Constitution, Professor Dorf argues that this interpretation may be faulty, citing original understanding, historical practice, and functional considerations. Professor Dorf concludes that while the Constitution is unclear on this issue, the absence of explicit language should not be taken as carte blanche to make any choice, and that both liberals and conservatives should be cautious in their assumptions about what the Constitution does or does not allow.
Amherst professor Austin Sarat expresses deep concern about the current U.S. Supreme Court’s potential effects on the country, arguing that the Court appears to be moving in a decisively conservative direction on issues like religious freedom, abortion, and affirmative action. Professor Sarat also raises questions about the ethics and legitimacy of the Court, citing public approval ratings and noting upcoming cases on racial gerrymandering, gun regulation, and administrative authority that could have significant societal consequences.
Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut discusses Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’s legal strategy in her case against Donald Trump and various co-defendants for an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election. Mr. Aftergut observes that Willis seems to be focusing on securing guilty pleas from less central co-conspirators to strengthen her case against major defendants like Trump, Rudolph Giuliani, and Sidney Powell, while potentially offering lesser charges to those willing to cooperate and testify, thereby avoiding the risk of revealing too much of her case before a full trial.
Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler delves into the ethical complexities of writing leniency letters in sexual assault cases, particularly when informed by the #MeToo movement. Professor Wexler argues that while society should be forgiving, as Verdict co-columnist Joe Margulies suggests, leniency letters can often perpetuate “himpathy,” where the judge might overempathize with the defendant—especially if white and otherwise privileged—at the expense of the victim, and that these letters should carefully avoid reinforcing tropes rooted in structural misogyny and American rape culture.