Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2015-12

Do Androids Dream of Animal Rights?

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Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf explores the relationship between renewed discussions about artificial intelligence (AI) and the rights of non-human animals. Dorf argues that our current portrayals of AI reflect guilt over our disregard for the interests of the billions of sentient animals we exploit, torture, and kill in the here and now.

Appealing and Unappealing Peeling: Two Takes on Nudity

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman and Stanford University law professor Lawrence Friedman comment on the changing attitudes toward nudity over time in the United States from a social and legal standpoint. Grossman and Friedman point to two recent instances in the news that seem contradictory: the increasing openness of high schoolers when it comes to sexting one another and millennial men's reticence to be nude while changing or showering in locker rooms.

Frozen Embryo Disputes

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb uses a recent court dispute over a contract governing a divorced couple’s frozen embryos as the basis for considering some important issues that would arise in a frozen embryo dispute with no contract. Colb points out that resolving such a dispute would require careful balancing of the right of one party to procreate, on the one hand, and the right of the other party not to procreate, on the other.

Distinction Without a Difference: Federal Court Says Sexual Orientation Discrimination Is Sex Discrimination

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman discusses a recent decision by a federal district court denouncing the legal distinction between sex discrimination and sexual orientation discrimination. Grossman praises the reasoning behind the decision and expresses hope that other courts will follow suit in recognizing “as illusory and artificial” any distinction between the two brands of discrimination.

Judicial Campaigns and the Appearance of Impropriety

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Chapman University law professor Ronald Rotunda comments on the concept of the “appearance of impropriety” that affects the regulation of the conduct of judges. Rotunda looks specifically at judicial election campaigns and points out that the statistical data do not support a conclusion a tit for tat relationship between campaign contributions and judicial decisions.

How One Might Have Answered Justice Scalia’s Questions (About the Mismatch Theory) at Oral Argument in the Fisher Case

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Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, and Michael Schaps, a California civil litigation attorney, discuss Justice Scalia’s provocative comments during last week’s oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas. Amar and Schaps point out that viewed in the most charitable light, Justice Scalia’s comments are actually an attempt to articulate an academic theory—known as mismatch theory—not simply bare racism. Though the authors are not persuaded of mismatch theory, they critique Scalia’s assumption that truth of the theory would compel the abolition of affirmative action altogether.

At This Point, Would Any Republican Ever Leave the Party?

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether any Republican would ever leave the party in light of the increasingly extremist views of the influential party leaders. Buchanan concludes that it is highly unlikely, for a number of reasons, that even Donald Trump could drive away moderate Republicans from the GOP in any permanent sense.

Is the Texas Ten Percent Plan “Race Neutral”?

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In light of the oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether the school’s Ten Percent Plan is “race neutral.” Dorf distinguishes race consciousness from racial classifications, and he points out that Justice Kennedy—the Court’s usual swing vote on such issues—has historically found that distinction to be significant.

What Trump’s Call to Ban Muslims Is Telling Us About Authoritarian Politics

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Former counsel to the president John W. Dean argues that Donald Trump’s campaign is showing to the national public what authoritarian politics is all about. Dean ultimately says that he does not find Trump’s rhetoric threatening, because an authoritarian such as Trump—even if he secures the nomination—cannot find broad enough voter support across the country.

Donald Trump and the Need for Civil, Accurate Discourse

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Cardozo law professor Marci Hamilton argues that Donald Trump and his extreme comments illustrate the need for civil, accurate discourse, rather than blunderbuss and showmanship. Hamilton points to the work by the Program in Research on Religion and Urban Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania, which is conducting a social experiment that shows that people from different sides of the political/religious divide can have a meaningful conversation and reach agreement for the common good.

Anger Management: Charlie Sheen’s Ex-Fiancée Sues Over Sheen’s Failure to Disclose HIV Status

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent lawsuit by Charlie Sheen’s ex-fiancée seeking damages for Sheen’s failure to disclose his HIV status. Grossman discusses the nature of the complaint filed and describes how civil and criminal laws must balance the right of individuals to sexual privacy against interests such as public health.

The Return of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC) before the Supreme Court: The Harris v. AIRC Case Argued Next Week

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University of Illinois College of Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments next week—Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission. As Amar points out, that case lies at the intersection of many contentious aspects of 21st century American democracy, including dissatisfaction with elected officials, partisan zeal, racial equality, and federal–state relations.

Education Department Faults Illinois School District for Excluding Transgender Girl from Locker Room Changing Area

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Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on a finding by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights that an Illinois school district had violated anti-discrimination laws by barring a transgender girl from showering and changing in the girls’ locker room without restrictions. Colb argues that perhaps the best solution for everyone may be to have individual showers for everyone, rather than singling out a single person or disregarding the privacy concerns of everyone.

Lessons From Princeton’s Struggles With Woodrow Wilson’s Racism

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Cornell University law professor Michael Dorf considers whether Princeton should remove Woodrow Wilson’s name and likeness from the campus due to Wilson’s racist views and actions. Dorf points out that the question is complex for a number of reasons, and rather than offering an outright answer, he provides a framework for evaluating this and similar issues.

Baby Mama: Appellate Court Declares Sherri Shepherd Is the Legal Mother of a Child Born to Her via Surrogate

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Hofstra University law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by a Pennsylvania appellate court that Sherri Shepherd, despite her arguments to the contrary, is the legal mother of a child born via surrogate. Grossman describes the background of the case and the national patchwork of state laws on surrogacy and explains why the appellate court came to the correct conclusion as a matter of law.

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. Immediately prior to taking the position at Illinois, Amar served as the Senior Assoc... 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 four books on constitutional la... 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

David S. Kemp

David S. Kemp is an attorney and managing editor at Justia. He received his B.A. in Psychology from Rice University and his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall)... 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, Fowler School of Law. He joined the faculty in 2008. Before that, he was Univ... more