Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2016-11

Why—and How—President-Elect Trump’s Conflicts of Interest Matter


Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf explains why President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interests are problematic for the country. Dorf argues that the primary risk is that a Trump administration will pursue policies that further Trump’s business interests at the expense of the national interest. Dorf also points out two other risks posed by Trump’s conflicts of interest: the possibility of unjust enrichment and the cultural shift that corruption at the top could catalyze.

Friends with Benefits: Texas Man Who Donated Sperm to a Friend Has Parental Rights


SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes a recent decision by a Texas appellate court applying that state’s parentage laws to a situation involving a man who donated his sperm so his friend could become pregnant. Grossman notes that while resolution of the “donor versus dad” question differs from state to state depending on the particular laws that apply, the facts of this case proved straightforward given the language of the Texas statute at issue.

The Many Faces of Backlash


Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies considers how the politics of quiescence and backlash might manifest itself in the areas of criminal justice and national security. As to national security, Margulies predicts that backlash will be particularly potent, but as to criminal justice, his poor decisions that disproportionately affect poor people of color will unable to generate the same political resonance.

Trump has Unleashed Forces that Put the Vulnerable at Risk, Which Means the Private Sphere Will Have to Step Up to Protect Them


Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, describes three individuals named to lead Donald Trump’s presidency who will threaten already-vulnerable communities. Hamilton argues that Mike Pence, Stephen Bannon, and Jeffrey Sessions are likely to reduce or eliminate the rights of gays, women, minorities, and children over the next four years unless the private sector steps up.

Labeling Moderate Muslims As Anti-Muslim Extremists


Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda discusses the controversial designation of Maajid Nawaz, a practicing Muslim, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Muslim, as “hateful extremists” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Rotunda argues that SPLC should reconsider its criteria for labeling someone an extremist, and he points out ways in which SPLC’s labeling system is inconsistent and misguided.

Fixing the Problem of “Faithless” Electors


Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar proposes a solution to the problem of the “faithless” elector—a person who pledges to vote in a particular way but then who wants to cast his or her electoral college vote in a different direction. Amar provides specific language that states could implement as law to address these rogue individuals whose actions could alter a presidential election result.

Liberal Activism in the Age of Trump


Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf shares some of the lessons he has learned as a vegan animal rights advocate, and explains how they apply to other policy areas. In particular, Dorf argues that in order to build a world in which presidential candidates do not pander to humanity’s basest otherizing instincts, we should aim to persuade our fellow humans of our point of view, not merely to organize to outvote them.

Raise the Rainbow Flag: Federal Court Rules that Title VII Bans Sexual Orientation Discrimination


SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal district court in Pennsylvania holding that Title VII bans sexual orientation discrimination. Grossman describes the gradual recognition of sexual orientation discrimination as a cognizable injury under Title VII and praises the court for coming to the correct conclusion.

The End Is Nigh! Or Is It?


Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies describes the typical pattern in politics of quiescence and backlash. As Margulies explains, it is natural for the supporters of the winning candidate to reach a sense of quiescence after the election, while the supporters of the losing candidate formulate a backlash. Margulies points out that this pattern exists regardless of whether the winning candidate is a Republican or a Democrat.

Coming Consequences for the Litigious President-elect Trump


John W. Dean, former counsel to President Nixon, discusses the possible consequences of the many lawsuits involving President-elect Donald Trump on his presidency. Dean explains why Trump’s situation is different from other presidents-elect who carried civil lawsuits with them into the Oval Office—Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, and Bill Clinton.

The Electorate Inadvertently Imposes Real Accountability on Washington Republicans


Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, explains how Republicans’ victories for president and both houses of Congress impose real accountability on the Republican party to get things done. Hamilton argues that with Republicans controlling these branches, they have no excuse for failing to fully come through on all the changes they have promised, including replacing Obamacare, building a wall on the Mexican border, creating jobs, and cutting taxes.

Ensuring Consent with Sexual Advance Directives


Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on the idea of a sexual advance directive—a proposed legal device that could provide consent or designate an agent to provide consent in advance of an anticipated persistent period of legal incompetence. Colb explains how a sexual advance directive purports to work, describes some limitations of it, and proposes an alternative solution that addresses those limitations.

Constitutional Lessons From Comey’s Unwise “October Surprise” Decision to Comment on Clinton Investigation Yet Again


Illinois law dean and law professor Vikram David Amar describes three takeaway lessons from FBI Director James Comey’s decision to comment on the ongoing Clinton email investigation a second time. Amar argues that (1) with respect to investigators, sometimes less formal independence means more latitude to act out, (2) the FBI director should not operate outside of DOJ bounds, and (3) the DOJ policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations arises from the Constitution.

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