Analysis and Commentary on Government

The Many Faces of Backlash

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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.

Liberal Activism in the Age of Trump

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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.

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

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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.

Two Big Legal Misconceptions That Have Recently Arisen in the Presidential Race

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Illinois Law dean Vikram David Amar and California civil litigation attorney Michael Schaps address two common misconceptions about the relationship between criminal law and politics that recently arose in the presidential race. Amar and Schaps explain first why the presumption of innocence does not apply to politics, and second, why the president actually does have the power to order prosecutions.

The Re-making of America’s Cities by Religious Organizations and the Department of Justice

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Marci Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Program for Research on Religion at the University of Pennsylvania, denounces the involvement of the federal government in local land use issues through the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Hamilton argues that RLUIPA incorrectly treats neutral, generally applicable land use decisions identically with discriminatory land use decisions.

Chevron Deference and the Proposed “Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016”: A Sign of the Times

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on the Separation of Powers Restoration Act of 2016, a bill that, if passed, would undo the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Chevron U.S.A. v. Natural Resources Defense Council. Amar points out that support for the doctrine of Chevron deference has fluctuated based on which political party occupies the White House, and there may even be a constitutional argument against Chevron’s preference for agencies over courts.

Is This the Beginning of the End of Constitutional Democracy in the U.S.?

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In this first of a two-part series of columns, George Washington law professor and economist Neil H. Buchanan considers whether the constitutional democracy in the United States is near its demise. Buchanan compares and contrasts the responses to issues faced by middle-class America given by Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton with those given by Republican nominee apparent Donald Trump.

(Yet) Another Obamacare Lawsuit Raises Issue Whether the House Can Sue the President

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar discusses a challenge to the Affordable Care Act (popularly known as Obamacare) that recently succeeded in a lower federal court. That challenge, brought by the U.S. House of Representatives, raises the threshold issue whether the House can sue the president to vindicate their legislative powers. Amar explains the few notable times the Supreme Court has considered whether legislators or legislatures could sue the executive branch, and he compares and contrasts those cases with the present challenge.

What We Could Learn from Brazil (and Vice Versa) About Presidential Impeachment Procedures (and Related Matters)

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Vikram David Amar, law professor and dean at Illinois Law, compares and contrasts the presidential impeachment procedures in the United States and Brazil. Amar suggests five ways in which these two large presidential democracies could benefit from more detailed study of the other’s procedures.

Prosecutorial Discretion: The Dog That Didn’t Bark in the Immigration Oral Argument—Yet

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Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on the recent oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Texas, a case involving a challenge to the Obama Administration’s deferred action immigration policy. Dorf points out that underneath the procedural questions actually before the Court in that case is a crucial unasked question: What is the scope of the president’s prosecutorial discretion not to enforce laws duly enacted by Congress?

What a California Proposal to Authorize the Killing of Gays Says About the Initiative Process and the First Amendment

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UC Davis law professors Vikram David Amar and Alan E. Brownstein discuss the so-called “Sodomite Suppression Act”—a recently proposed California initiative. Amar and Brownstein argue that despite the clear illegality and immorality of the proposed initiative, many of the suggestions that the attorney who proposed it be punished or that the initiative process be altered to prevent these types of initiatives are themselves unconstitutional in some cases, and at best ill-advised in other cases.

Did Federalism Rescue Obamacare?

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Cornell University professor Michael Dorf discusses last week’s oral arguments in King v. Burwell, the case in which the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to decide the fate of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Dorf contends that there are three distinct arguments through which the government could successfully defend the law if the Court finds the language of the statute unclear.

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