Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2014-08

Are “Advisory” Measures (Like Proposition 49) Permitted on the California Ballot?


UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses a recent decision by the California Supreme Court temporarily blocking an “advisory” measure from appearing on the ballot. Focusing on the opinion by Justice Goodwin Liu, Amar describes three main weaknesses in the rationale behind disallowing the legislature from placing the advisory question (or any advisory question) on the ballot.

Video-Recording Police–Citizen Encounters Is Necessary but Not Enough


In light of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf weighs the benefits and costs of equipping police officers with wearable cameras to record encounters with citizens. Dorf concludes that while there are some risks inherent in the practice, it would be a good first step toward reducing the frequency of tragedies resulting from police–citizen confrontations.

The Reclamation of Torture


Guest columnist and professor of law and government at Cornell University, Joseph Margulies discusses the use of the term “torture” in American media and the public sphere. Margulies describes the change in language after 9/11 and explains the significance of the word’s return to the public’s vocabulary.

Who Is Abusing Power: Rick Perry or Michael McCrum, His Special Prosecutor?


John Dean, former counsel to the president, comments on the recent indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry. Dean cautions against falling for Perry’s and even some Democrats’ quick dismissal of the indictment as politically motivated and lacking sufficient basis. Dean argues that only Perry, not his special prosecutor, may have abused his power.

Who Will Protect New York’s Children from Preventable Death and Permanent Disability?


Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton discusses an archaic Orthodox Jewish practice that persists despite putting infants at risk of death or permanent injury. Hamilton describes a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit holding that strict scrutiny applies to the New York City regulation requiring that rabbis receive informed consent from an infant’s parents before performing the dangerous ritual. Hamilton explains why, in her view, the Second Circuit erred in reaching that decision, and moreover, why current criminal laws should be used to protect children from being exposed to the risk.

Mommy and Momma: Determining Parentage in the New Family


Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the Supreme Court of New Hampshire recognizing that both women who raised a child (while they were in a relationship together) are legal parents, despite that only one is the biological mother. Grossman describes how that decision and others like it indicate an evolving understanding of parentage and how families are created.

The Fifth Circuit Blocks Mississippi Law From Closing the Last Abortion Clinic


Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a recent decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit sustaining an as-applied constitutional challenge to a Mississippi law requiring “admitting privileges” for physicians who provide abortions. Colb explains the panel majority’s creative, albeit convincing, reasoning and critically analyzes the dissenting opinion.

Suing the President


Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses on the lawsuit against President Obama and explains the issue of judicial standing to sue the President for exceeding his constitutional authority. Rotunda points to the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in United States v. Windsor, the case in which the Court struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, as supporting standing for the new case against the President.

Is the University of California Wrong For Admitting More Non-Californians?


UC Davis law professor Vikram David Amar discusses the claim that the University of California is admitting out-of-state and international students to the exclusion of California students. Amar describes some of the factual misunderstandings leading to this criticism and explains why the University’s present solution actually represents a balancing act that benefits California students.

Academic Freedom in the Salaita Case


Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf discusses a recent decision by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to revoke an offer to Steven G. Salaita of a tenured faculty appointment after Salaita tweeted strong criticism of Israel’s conduct in Gaza. Dorf explains why the University’s decision presents serious issues of academic freedom and free speech, and even contract law.

Thoughts On Nixon’s Resignation


For the fortieth anniversary of former President Richard Nixon’s resignation, John Dean, a Justia columnist and former counsel to the president, offers some thoughts and a preview of his newly released book, The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. As Dean explains in this adapted preface to the book, the narrative is based on actual White House recordings of Watergate-related activities, which Dean himself listened to and transcribed.

The Circle Starts to Close: The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Abortion, the Catholic Bishops, and the Satanic Temple


Cardozo Law professor Marci Hamilton comments on a recent move by the Satanic Temple seeking exemption from coercive informed consent laws citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. Hamilton describes the Catholic bishops’ apprehension toward the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) when it was being considered over twenty years ago and how quickly they got behind it after it passed. Finally, Hamilton describes how clear it is now that RFRA cuts both ways.

The Supreme Court’s Approach to Restitution For Victims of Child Pornography Possession


Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Paroline v. United States, in which the Court considered how much restitution a victim of sexual abuse should be able to recover from a single perpetrator. Colb explains the reasoning used by the majority and the two diametrically opposed dissenting opinions, and she extends the discussion to an important narrative the Court’s opinions fail to consider.

Using Facebook as a Discovery Device


Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda discusses how various courts and bar associations treat attorneys’ uses of Facebook and other social networking sites. Rotunda describes some different rules that affect how lawyers may and may not use social networking sites to interact with witnesses, opposing parties, jurors, and clients.

How to Read Justice Kennedy’s Crucial Concurring Opinion in Hobby Lobby: Part II in a Series


Vikram David Amar, a U.C. Davis law professor, continues his discussion of the significance of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s concurrence in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc.. Amar describes several ways in which Justice Kennedy’s concurrence can be read to limit the breadth of the Court’s holding in that case and suggests that lower courts should pay close attention to his concurring opinion when applying the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in subsequent cases.

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 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 variet... 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 the Robert A. Fox Leadership Program Professor of Practice, and Fox Family Pavilion Resident Senior Fellow in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvani... 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

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