Verdict

Trump’s Recent Calls to Execute Drug Traffickers Should Be a Wake-Up Call to the Biden Administration
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Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on Donald Trump’s recently repeated calls to apply the death penalty to drug dealers. Professor Sarat points out that in 2020, only 30 people were executed worldwide for drug offenses (down from 116 in 2019), and they all occurred in China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia—hardly the kind of examples that any nation committed to respecting human rights should want to emulate.

SCOTUS Animal Welfare Case Could Implicate State Power to Ban Abortion Pills
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Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court involving a challenge by the pork industry to a California law—Proposition 12—that was adopted by referendum in 2018. Professor Dorf explains why Supreme Court should uphold Prop 12 against the plaintiffs’ “dormant” Commerce Clause claims, and he considers the implications of that holding on state power to ban abortion pills from other states.

Oregon Case Reaffirms Both Breadth of the Clemency Power and the Primacy of Politics in Controlling Its Exercise
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Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on a recent case in which the Oregon Court of Appeals held that Governor Kate Brown had the legal authority to grant mass clemency to more than 1,000 people convicted of crimes in her state. Professor Sarat points out that the decision joins a long line of others affirming the authority of governors and the President of the United States to grant clemency for “good reason, bad reason or no reason at all.”

What Does it Mean for Other Institutions to “Defy” or “Check” the Supreme Court? Not What the Court Invites Those Institutions to Do
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Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and professor Jason Mazzone respond to a recent column by New York Times columnist David Leonhardt, arguing that neither of the recent high-profile developments after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision is an example of “defying” the Court or “checking” judicial power. Dean Amar and Professor Mazzone point out that while neither the abortion vote in Kansas nor the pending federal marriage-equality proposal may fairly be characterized as “defying” or “checking,” some political reactions to Supreme Court rulings in the past arguably have involved defiance or disobedience of the Court.

Alito and the Free Exercise of Christianity
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Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s July 28 keynote address at the Notre Dame Religious Liberty Summit in Rome, Italy. Professor Colb explains why Alito’s characterization of the Holocaust as a denial of religious liberty is untrue and misleading, and she points out that he uses his position of power to impose a specific brand of Christianity on unwilling people.

Anger, Democracy, and the Goldilocks Dilemma
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Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies continues his discussion of why anger can benefit democracy, but he rebuts claims that only anti-democratic solutions can remedy the harms that are supposedly being inflicted on our society. Specifically, Professor Margulies points out as evidence of effective democratic processes the imminent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and the rejection by Kansas voters of a state constitutional amendment that could allow the legislature to restrict or prohibit abortions in that state.

South Carolina Case Puts the Electric Chair and the Firing Squad on Trial
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Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on a challenge to South Carolina’s plan to use the electric chair or the firing squad to carry out executions. Professor Sarat describes the conflicting expert testimony regarding the suffering involved in each method of execution and argues that instead of debating about the pain of the condemned, we should reject the premise that death is a punishment the government should even be using.

What the Divided Argument in the SCOTUS Affirmative Action Cases Could Mean
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Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the possible significance of the Supreme Court’s decision to divide, rather than consolidate, argument in the affirmative action cases it will be deciding next term. Professor Dorf suggests the decision would allow Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to participate in one of the cases and could also allow the Court to attend to at least two important factual and legal differences between the two cases.

Why the Clean Air Act’s Special Treatment of California Is Permissible Even in Light of the Equal-Sovereignty Notion Invoked in Shelby County
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Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar explains why the Clean Air Act’s provision allowing California to set its own air-pollution standards does not violate the notion of equal sovereignty. Dean Amar notes that the equal sovereignty idea as applied in Shelby County v. Holder is likely wrong, but even assuming it is correct, he argues it does not apply to the Clean Air Act because (1) the Clean Air Act was enacted under Congress’s Commerce Clause powers, a provision that does not require geographic uniformity, and (2) the alleged inequality disfavors the many, rather than the few.

Oklahoma Wants to Try Yet Again to Execute Richard Glossip in a Case That Illustrates the Death Penalty’s Betrayal of American Values
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Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on Oklahoma’s now-fourth attempt to carry out the execution of Richard Glossip. Professor Sarat argues that Glossip’s case illustrates the many ways in which the death penalty betrays America’s values and commitments and that all Americans should join in efforts to end it.

Updates on Lawsuits against Religions
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UNLV Boyd School of Law professor Leslie C. Griffin comments on three recent cases involving lawsuits against religious employers by former employees. Professor Griffin explains the facts and outcomes of each case and argues that the expansive ministerial exception doctrine permits employers to discriminate at will simply by labeling employees as “ministers.”

“Pro-Life”: Delta Variant
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Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb considers what it means for many of today’s anti-abortion advocates to criminalize not only abortion providers but the person seeking to obtain an abortion as well. Professor Colb argues that this latest iteration of the anti-abortion movement is about turning women into public property subject to rape and then to reproductive servitude for the community.

James Coddington’s Clemency Petition Offers a Chance to Recognize the Rehabilitation and Redemption of Death Row Inmates
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Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the clemency petition filed by Oklahoma death-row inmate James Coddington. Professor Sarat argues that, though unlikely to succeed based on Oklahoma’s history, Coddington’s petition offers the state the chance to revive a tradition of recognizing rehabilitation and redemption for people on death row.

Transportation Security for New York City Straphangers
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NYU Law professor Samuel Estreicher and rising 3L Zachary G. Garrett propose two measures to improve the safety of public transportation in New York City. Specifically, Professor Estreicher and Mr. Garrett suggest that (1) stationing at least one police officer at each turnstile (or set of turnstiles), around the clock, and (2) installing weapons screeners at every subway station would reduce violence and crime.

Twitter’s Lawsuit Paints Elon Musk as a Trump-Like Troll: That’s Potentially Good for Shareholders but bad for Everyone Else
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Cornell Law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on Twitter’s lawsuit against Elon Musk over Musk’s announcement that he was terminating his April agreement to purchase the company for $44 billion. Professor Dorf describes how Musk’s bully-like behavior is reminiscent of Donald Trump’s and describes the possible (and likely) remedies the Delaware court might deem appropriate.

The Implication of the Dobbs Decision for Casey
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Middle Tennessee State University professor John R. Vile explains what the Supreme Court’s decision this term in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization implies about the Court’s view of its prior decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Professor Vile argues that it was unlikely a doctrine such as substantive due process could ever adequately resolve such a contentious issue as abortion and predicts that rigid state legislation that makes no exception for cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother will face similar backlash.

Impregnable
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Cornell Law professor Sherry F. Colb explores the history and understanding of the word “impregnable,” particularly the gendered nature of the word and what it says about our perception of pregnancy. Professor Colb suggests ways in which our society could make women “impregnable” and thus more equal to men, who are quite literally impregnable.

Death, Dignity, and the Ethics of Organ Donation in the Shadow of Execution
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Amherst professor Austin Sarat comments on the controversy over whether death-row inmates should be permitted to donate their organs before or after their executions. Professor Sarat argues that to prohibit inmates from donating their organs is a further mark of their subjugation and that for many, organ donation is a way of giving life even as the state takes theirs.

Viking River Cruises Muddies the Waters
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Illinois Law professor Matthew Finkin comments on the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Viking River Cruises v. Moriana, pointing out several issues in the Court’s reasoning and conclusion as to the arbitration questions raised in that case. Professor Finkin argues that the decision incites three lines of inquiry—historical, empirical, and doctrinal—and then begs them, ultimately leaving more questions than it resolves.

Private Transitional Justice—The Case of the Slave Daguerreotypes Continued
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Illinois Law professor Lesley M. Wexler comments on a decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirming Harvard’s ownership over slave daguerreotypes, but allowing causes of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress and for reckless inflection of emotional distress to move forward. Professor Wexler explains how the majority opinion and each of the two concurrences—one of which invites future plaintiffs to submit novel claims to seek ownership and the other which proposes a cause of action for descendants of slaves to receive ownership of wrongfully attained property—might fit within transitional justice.

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law on the Urbana-Champaign campus. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar Chair in Taxation at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law. His research addresses economic... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published articles in a... more

John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973. Before becoming White House counsel at age thirty-one, he was the chief minority counsel to the... more

Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He has written hundreds of popular essays, dozens of scholarly articles, and six books on constitutional... more

Samuel Estreicher

Samuel Estreicher is the Dwight D. Opperman Professor, Director, Center for Labor and Employment Law and Co-Director, Institute of Judicial Administration, NYU School of Law.

Leslie C. Griffin

Dr. Leslie C. Griffin is the William S. Boyd Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Boyd School of Law. Prof. Griffin, who teaches constitutional law and bioethics, is known for... more

Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School of Law.  She is an expert in sex discrimination law. Her most recent book, Nine to Five: How... more

Marci A. Hamilton

Professor Marci A. Hamilton is a Professor of Practice in Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She is also the founder, CEO, and Academic Director of CHILD USA, a 501(c)(3)... more

Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in Geren... more

Austin Sarat

Austin Sarat is the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College.Professor Sarat founded both Amherst College’s Department of Law,... more

Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Wexler was a Professor of Law at Florida State University,... more