Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2013-04

Victor/Victoria: Michigan Court Says Marriage Still Valid Despite Husband’s Sexual Reassignment Surgery

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on how the legal status of the spouses in a marriage may change if one of them has sex-reassignment surgery—either before or after the marriage, or whether their legal sex must always be the one they had at birth. Grossman covers cases on this topic in Kansas, Texas, Florida and New Jersey, and their outcomes.

A New Mexico School District Censors Students’ Attempts to Use Plastic Fetus Dolls to Talk About Abortion

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Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden comments on a New Mexico free speech case, in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled against students’ First Amendment claims, among other claims that their attorneys had brought. Hilden argues that the students’ First Amendment claims were valid, and should have been upheld by the court. She also raises an interesting wrinkle regarding the Tinker test for speech in public schools: What if the speaker is not the disruptor of the school environment, and other students are, but the seed of the other students’ disruption did come from the speaker?

Disruption in the Legal Industry: A Librarian’s Perspective

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Justia guest columnist, law librarian, and attorney Sarah Glassmeyer comments on the increasing privatization of legal research materials, leading many legal sources to be inaccessible to the poor and even the middle class. Glassmeyer argues that the current state of legal publishing needs to be disrupted, for it is badly broken. She urges that access to primary legal content, without additional original content attached, should be free to all—especially in an era where, she notes, 80 percent of people who want legal representation cannot afford it. Glassmeyer notes that instead of providing increased access, some companies try to privatize primary legal content using a variety of strategies.

If the Supreme Court Decides the Proposition 8 Sponsors Lack Standing, What Will Happen to Same-Sex Marriage in California? Part Two in a Two-Part Series of Columns

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In Part Two of a two-part series of columns regarding legal issues relating to Proposition 8, Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram Amar comments on various scenarios relating to the Proposition that may or may not come to pass. The scenarios include a number of different ways in which Judge Walker’s injunction might be read.

Obama’s Conservative Budget: The White House’s Budget Proposal Should Remove All Remaining Hope That the President is Secretly an Economic Liberal

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Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan argues that those who believe that President Obama is at heart an economic liberal are dead wrong. Unlike with gun control, which Obama is aggressively pursuing, the President is not, Buchanan contends, actively pursuing the progressive budget that many of those who voted for him might have expected. Buchanan also notes that it seems that the lack of such a budget cannot be laid at the Republicans' door, as indications suggest that Obama himself may not want a truly progressive budget, rather than a centrist conservative one.

Some Good News for Human Rights Lawyers in the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of the Alien Tort Statute

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Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the Alien Tort Statue (ATS), which had been interpreted by many human rights attorneys as opening the way for serious foreign wrongs to be litigated in U.S. courts, including the Supreme Court. The conservative Justices rejected that interpretation, however, and their votes won the day, angering and disappointing human rights lawyers. Still, Dorf finds a few positives for the human rights law community in the Court's decision, as well, citing a handful of ATS approaches that may remain to be used.

Miranda’s Public Safety Exception: How It Does and Does Not Affect the Evidence Against the Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect

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Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp discusses Miranda warnings and the proposed reliance on the “public safety” exception in the case of the suspected Boston Marathon bomber. Kemp first describes the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Miranda v. Arizona, as well as the subsequently established public safety exception. Kemp cautions that despite the characterization by some authorities of the exception as a carte blanche to question criminal suspects in blatant disregard of their constitutional rights, the exception should be preserved as an evidentiary rule employed only by impartial courts, not by interrogating officers.

Unstated Findings of the Detainee Treatment Report: Bush/Cheney & Co. Are War Criminals

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the bipartisan Detainee Treatment report that was recently released by The Constitution Project (TCP). Dean characterizes the report’s findings as nothing less than devastating. In particular, Dean notes that the report leads Dean—who serves on the TCP committee on Liberty & Security—to conclude that Vice President Dick Cheney, as well as others, engaged in war crimes. Dean focuses especially on TCP’s most notable findings in his column.

A Movie Deal and Two New Books Guarantee that the World Will Finally Understand the Catholic Church Child Sex Abuse Scandal

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Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on the new books—one nonfiction, and the other a novel—and the movie deal that will better illuminate the Catholic Church's scandal over clergy child sex abuse. Hamilton expresses the hope that these works will cause a stronger push for strict laws in this area. Hamilton focuses on some key parts of the scandal, such as the early dearth of media coverage and the brave crusaders who dared to side with the victims and boldly challenge the Church. She also assesses each of the two books, finding both praiseworthy.

The U.S. Supreme Court Declares Warrantless Dog Sniffs of Private Front Porches Unconstitutional, Or Does it? A Closer Look at Florida v. Jardines

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Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb comments on the recent Supreme Court Fourth Amendment case concerning the constitutionality of the police’s conducting a warrantless dog sniff on the front porch of a private house in order to detect drugs. Colb analyzes both the majority and concurring opinions from the High Court, and explains why the drugs that were found by the police were suppressed, so that they could not be admitted into evidence in a criminal case against the defendant, Jardines. She also predicts the result that will follow when a similar, but not identical, Fourth Amendment case arises in the future, as it surely will.

Parenthood by Contract: The Kansas Supreme Court Enforces a Lesbian Co-Parenting Agreement

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Justia columnist and Hofstra law professor Joanna Grossman comments on the recurring legal issue of whether a lesbian co-parent—one who functions as a second parent for her partner’s biological child—can acquire parental or quasi-parental rights that allow her to still enjoy a parent-child relationship after the adults’ relationship ends. Grossman discusses state Supreme Court cases from Kansas, North Carolina and Ohio that take on this very question. She also discusses the question whether a child can have three legal parents (one of whom is a sperm donor and the other two, lesbian co-parents) and notes that no court, so far, has allowed that.

Was the Recording of Senator Mitch McConnell’s Campaign a Watergate-like Event, and Was It Illegal?

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on the recent controversy over the recording of Senator Mitch McConnell's campaign. Though some have compared the incident to Watergate, and suggested that the recording was illegal, Dean contends that neither the Watergate comparison nor the suggestion of illegality is accurate, and explains exactly why.

The First Amendment and Ag-Gag Laws

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Justia columnist and attorney Julie Hilden writes in opposition to Ag-Gag laws, which penalize those who (1) covertly take videos of abuse at facilities where animals are held; and/or (2) apply for a job at such a facility without revealing that they are affiliated with an animal rights group. She also comments on Duke law professor Jed Purdy’s argument in a recent New York Times Op Ed that webcams should be placed in slaughterhouses and other animal facilities, because Purdy doesn’t go further to advocate the use of such cameras to make slaughterhouses a thing of the past.

Pay the Rich and the Foreigners First: Republicans Reveal Their True Priorities, as They Plan to Hold Everyone Else Hostage to the Debt Ceiling, Yet Again

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Justia columnist, George Washington law professor, and economist Neil Buchanan points out that congressional Republicans are now admitting indirectly that the laws that they have passed would require President Obama to make impossible choices as to who will be paid, and who will not. Through this gambit, Buchanan argues, Republicans are now admitting who truly matters most to them: wealthy investors, foreign banks and governments; everyone else, the Republicans say, can wait.

Precisely What Will, or Should, Happen to Same-Sex Marriage in California if the Supreme Court Finds in Hollingsworth v. Perry That the Proposition 8 Sponsors Lack Standing? Part One in a Two-Part Series of Columns

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Justia columnist and U.C., Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses what the legal consequences may be if the sponsors of California’s Proposition 8, the ban on gay marriage, are found by the Supreme Court to lack standing—that is, the legal right—to defend the Proposition. Amar comments on both what should, and what might, happen in that eventuality.

Two Recent Supreme Court Cases Sow Confusion About the Standard for Certifying Class Actions

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Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Michael Dorf comments on two recent Supreme Court cases that raise complicated and interesting issues regarding class action certification. Dorf explains the holding in each case, and addresses the interesting way in which the substantive merits of the cases and their procedural posture as class actions intertwine.

Teens and Tiaras: Virtual Beauty Contests on Instagram, and Why the Company Should Do Something About Them

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Justia columnist and U. Washington law professor Anita Ramasastry discusses Instragram’s issue with users’ rating the appearance of young girls in beauty pageants online, and leaving comments both positive and negative. Ramasastry notes that such pageants may raise legal issues and privacy concerns and may trigger issues under COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

The Constitution and Punitive Damages: A Ten-Year Anniversary Discussion of State Farm v. Campbell

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For the ten-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in State Farm v. Campbell, Justia columnist and attorney David Kemp provides an overview of the Court’s jurisprudence on the constitutionality of punitive damages in civil lawsuits. He first explains the role of punitive damages in civil lawsuits and then goes on to discuss nine major Supreme Court cases dealing with punitive damages in different manners. He predicts, based on the pattern of punitive damages cases that have come before the Court in years past, that the Court will hear another such case in the not-so-distant future.

Republicans’ Ongoing Desperation: They’re Still Attacking Voters and Government

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Justia columnist and former counsel to the president John Dean comments on recent Republican ploys, such as seeking to disenfranchise those who will likely vote for Democrats. Dean contends that the GOP has forgotten the basics of American democracy, and that its anti-government stance and its attacks on spending are creating new and unnecessary problems, when there are many other problems that we have yet to effectively address. Dean also warns that America only works based on widespread human decency, a tenet that he contends that the Republicans are testing.

The Plague of Proposed Legislation by Religious Entities in the States: An Explosion in Foolhardy State Religious Liberty Proposals and a Sneaky Addition to the Pennsylvania Task Force’s Legislative Proposals

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Justia columnist and Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton comments on two recent developments: (1) a new kind of state-level religious freedom restoration act (RFRA) that omits the requirement of a substantial burden upon the plaintiff's religious conduct; a mere burden is enough under this new kind of RFRA; (2) the deeply disappointing nature of the Pennsylvania Task Force Legislative Package to protect children, which omitted child-sex-abuse statute of limitations reform, and failed to protect children from medical neglect by faith-healing parents.

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 i... more

Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan is an economist and legal scholar and a Professor of Law at The George Washington University. He teaches tax law and tax policy, and he has taught contract law, law and economics, and... more

Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is Professor of Law and Charles Evans Hughes Scholar at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in constitutional criminal procedure, evidence, and animal rights. She has published 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 Judiciar... 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 law... 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,  more

Marci A. Hamilton

Marci A. Hamilton is one of the country’s leading church-state scholars and the Fox Professor of Practice and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion in the... 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 more

Anita Ramasastry

Anita Ramasastry is the UW Law Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, where she also directs the graduate program on Sustainable International Developmen... more

Ronald D. Rotunda

Ronald D. Rotunda is the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, at Chapman University, Dale E. Fowler School of Law. Before that, he was University Profe... 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, whose... more