Analysis and Commentary Posted in 2017-05

Predicting Donald Trump’s Presidency

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John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, explains the type-analysis developed by political scientist and presidential scholar James David Barber, and applies it to President Trump. Dean observes that Trump fits the Active/Negative type—a type also exhibited by John Adams, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, and George W. Bush. Dean argues that presidents of this type have had what he describes as “failed presidencies.”

The Trump Presidency is the Best Civics Lesson in Our Lifetimes

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Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, discusses how missteps by the Trump Administration have offered the American people a refresher in basic concepts of U.S. government. Hamilton breaks down these various civics topics and explains how the actions of Donald Trump and his administration have returned subjects such as checks and balances, constitutional allocation of power, and impeachment to the forefront of minds in the American public.

Politics in the U.S. Will Continue to Be Brutal and Nasty, With or Without Impeachment

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George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan predicts that regardless of the immediate future of President Trump, the foreseeable future of American politics will be dysfunctional. Buchanan argues that everyone who wants to improve the future of our country should look for solutions regardless of whether they support impeachment or not.

“Dot the i’s and Cross the t’s”: Louisiana Supreme Court Voids Prenuptial Agreement for Signature Defect

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SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes a case in which the Louisiana Supreme Court voided a prenuptial agreement for its failure to abide by strict formalities required in that state. Grossman discusses the history of prenuptial and postnuptial agreements and uses this case and one from New York to illustrate the importance of paying attention to the details when forming these documents.

A Primer on Impeachment (With Special Attention to the Recent Allegations of Interference by President Trump in the Flynn/Russia Investigation)

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar explains a few basics about the presidential impeachment process. Amar points out that impeachable conduct does not need to violate criminal statutes, that presidential participation in pending investigations isn’t necessarily wrong (but can be), and that not all “high crimes and misdemeanors” must lead to impeachment.

A Fresh Look at Jury Nullification

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In response to a recent episode of the podcast Radiolab that relates the story of a juror who was prosecuted for attempting jury nullification, Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb considers how we ought to think about the power of jurors to acquit for any reason. Colb explains what jury nullification is and describes some situations in which it is most clearly appropriate and some in which it is problematic. She also proposes a solution to address bias in all phases of the criminal process, rather than just prosecution and trial.

One Good Thing Donald Trump’s Presidency Has Done: Improved Journalism

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Former counsel to president Richard Nixon John W. Dean explains how the flurry of news surrounding President Trump has, if nothing else, improved the quality of journalism. Dean points out that the critical thinking and work of journalists is at least as strong right now as it was during the Watergate scandal and they are admirably digging for truth rather than taking statements at face value.

The Spinning Chair Presidency

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Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how President Trump is playing an elaborate game to throw Americans off balance and rearrange core American values. Hamilton calls upon Americans to stand up and demand the truth from the administration.

What Employment Discrimination Law Teaches About the Comey Firing

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Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on President Trump’s decision Tuesday night to fire FBI Director James Comey. Though Title VII obviously does not apply to Trump’s action, Dorf analogizes to the framework used in Title VII employment discrimination contexts to demonstrate that the evidence overwhelmingly suggests Trump’s asserted grounds for firing Comey were pretextual.

“Stealthing”: Is Secret Condom Removal Akin to Sexual Assault?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb comments on “stealthing,” a practice in which men surreptitiously remove their condoms while having intercourse. Colb considers whether the practice is best characterized as sexual assault, as some have argued, or whether it is a different kind of harm that should be addressed through a different set of legal processes.

Discrimination Begets Discrimination: The Ninth Circuit Allows Prior Salary to Justify Paying Women Less Than Men for the Same Work

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SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit perpetuating pay disparities between men and women by allowing an employer to rely on prior salary in determining pay. Grossman explains why the use of salary history undermines the purpose of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and argues that laws prohibiting use of salary history, like Massachusetts has, require an employer to think about how much the work is worth rather than how much the person is worth.

An Academic Year-End Look at Some Bright Spots and Significant Challenges for Legal Education

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Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar comments on two important indicators of the health of legal education—employment outcomes and bar passage rates. Amar points out that based on the currently reported data on employment for America’s ABA-accredited law schools, the overall percentage has gone up for the Class of 2016 as compared to the Class of 2015. Amar also argues that law schools should take a deeper look at the factors contributing to low (and in some cases, increasingly low) bar pass rates.

Snap to It: Why Theresa May Called an Early Election, and Why Her Expected Win May Be a Loss for Britain

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Guest columnist Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law and attorney with an international business practice, explains why (and how) British prime minister Theresa May called an early election for June 8. Falvy describes the legal basis for the election and predicts that rather than leading to a kind of national rebirth, Brexit may actually end up being the catalyst for the rapid dissolution of the United Kingdom.

What We Really Mean by the Culture War

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Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies points out that teaching about religion is substantially different from promoting one religion at the expense of another, or of promoting religiosity at the expense of agnosticism or atheism. Margulies argues that a San Diego school district’s choice to teach about Islam promotes a safe climate of respect and toleration, notwithstanding claims that it has “surrendered” to Sharia 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