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 articles in a variety of law reviews, including Stanford, Columbia, N.Y.U., and G.W., on such topics as privacy from police searches, incarceration, reproductive rights, and why courts are more offended by wrongdoing that results in concrete rather than abstract harm. Colb has also published a book about sex equality in the Twenty-First Century, entitled When Sex Counts, and a book about veganism entitled Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger?. Before beginning her career in law teaching, Colb clerked for Judge Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the U.S. Supreme Court. She received her J.D. magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and her A.B. summa cum laude and valedictorian from Columbia College.

Columns by Sherry F. Colb

The Supreme Court Considers “True Threats” and the First Amendment

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, Elonis v. United States, in which the Court will consider what constitutes a “true threat.” Specifically, Colb considers whether the First Amendment right of free speech prevents criminalization of threatening speech only if the speaker intended to bring about fear of bodily harm or death, or if it is enough that a reasonable person uttering those words would have anticipated they would be interpreted as such a threat.

The Supreme Court Considers Warger v. Shauers: How Insulated Are Jurors From Having to Testify About Deliberations?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses whether there is a meaningful distinction between using juror testimony to invalidate the substance of a jury’s verdict and using the testimony to call into question the composition of the jury. Colb notes that a case raising that issue is before the U.S. Supreme Court this Term.

What Will the Supreme Court Say About Searches of Hotel Guest Records?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a case in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted review to decide whether a Los Angeles municipal code violates the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures. Colb argues that, much like general warrants of old, the provision in question empowers police to perform unreasonable searches in blatant violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Singling Out Jewish Kaporos For Criticism

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb explains why an animal rights advocate might choose to protest the Jewish Kaporos ritual and the relative merits of such a position. Colb argues that despite the potential for facilitating hypocrisy or anti-semitism, there are a few potential saving graces for campaigns against the ritual.

Is It Arbitrary to Distinguish Incest From Homosexuality?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb differentiates state bans on incestuous marriages from bans on same-sex marriages by looking at the governmental interests the bans purportedly serve and the harm done to their targets. Colb argues that the U.S. Supreme Court can, if it wishes, use this distinction to strike down bans on same-sex marriages without also having to rule on bans on incestuous marriages.

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

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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.

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

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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.

What Counts as an Abortion, and Does It Matter?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc., and the nature of the respondents’ claim that IUDs and morning-after pills are abortifacients. Colb analogizes to the distinction between the culpability of direct violence and failure to rescue in order to illustrate that the respondents’ claims are moral rather than factual in basis.

The Supreme Court Decides Riley v. California and Updates the Fourth Amendment

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb discusses a recent case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, Riley v. California, in which the Court nearly unanimously held that police may not examine the digital contents of an arrestee’s cell phone as part of a search incident to arrest. Colb describes the facts behind the two cases consolidated for the Court’s review, explains the precedents the Court relied upon in reaching its decision, and praises the Court for decisively embracing Fourth Amendment protection for digital privacy.

The U.S. Supreme Court Narrows States’ Discretion to Execute the Intellectually Disabled

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Cornell University law professor Sherry Colb comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court invalidating Florida’s approach to identifying criminal convicts who are intellectually disabled and therefore constitutionally ineligible for the death penalty. Colb describes the facts and issues that brought the case before the Court and infers from the opinion that the Court may have a growing consciousness about those sentenced to death. Acknowledging also the strong arguments presented by the dissent, Colb concludes that essential difference between the majority and the dissent is a disagreement as to what is worse: to execute the wrong person to spare the wrong person from execution.

The Dilemma of Humane Execution and Humane Slaughter

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Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses the notion of humane killing in the context of the death penalty and the slaughter of animals. She explores the apparent paradoxes of humane executions of criminals and the humane slaughter of animals. Colb concludes that the only way to truly eliminate the suffering of humans and animals during any intentional killing process is to abolish both executions and slaughters.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether the Fourth Amendment Allows Reasonable Mistakes of Substantive Law: Part Two of a Two-Part Series of Columns

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In the second of a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb continues her discussion of a Fourth Amendment case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Heien v. North Carolina. She explains the history and trajectory of the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule and predicts that the Court will apply that exception in this case. However, Colb suggests that even doing so might still narrow the scope of the Fourth Amendment’s protections as effectively as would deciding the case directly on the substance of the Fourth Amendment.

U.S. Supreme Court Considers Whether the Fourth Amendment Allows Reasonable Mistakes of Substantive Law Part One of a Two-Part Series of Columns

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In the first of a two-part series of columns, Justia columnist and Cornell law professor Sherry Colb discusses a Fourth Amendment case in which the U.S. Supreme Court recently granted certiorari to resolve a circuit split. In that case, Heien v. North Carolina, the Court is considering whether the Fourth Amendment protects against stops by a police officer who acts on the basis of a reasonable but erroneous interpretation of state law. Colb reviews the facts of Heien, explains what “reasonable seizures” are under the Fourth Amendment, and describes the differences between legal and factual errors. The second column, which will appear on Verdict on May 5, will address the “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule and the impact of a ruling on the basis of good faith.