Analysis and Commentary on Constitutional Law

Policing Sexism at the Border: The Supreme Court’s Decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana

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SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sessions v. Morales-Santana, in which the Court held unconstitutional a federal law imposing different physical presence requirements on mothers as compared to fathers. Grossman argues that the law at issue epitomized sex discrimination and was rooted in archaic generalizations about parents based on gender.

Remaining Faithful to Free Speech and Academic Freedom

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar laments recent instances of censored speech, particularly on university campuses, and reminds us that freedom of speech and academic freedom protect even those speakers whose message might be perceived odious, racist, sexist, or hateful. Amar points out that both freedom of speech and academic freedom are rooted in the principle that ideas and arguments ought to be evaluated on their substance and that the essence of both kinds of freedom is the opportunity to persuade others of the merits of one's argument, rather than the use of power to coerce or silence others.

Supreme Court Rules That Citizenship Must Be Equally Heritable Through Fathers and Mothers

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Cornell University law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on the heritability of citizenship and explains why the decision might have implications for other immigration issues, such as the “Muslim ban” executive order. Dorf argues that the precedents the Court had to distinguish to reach its conclusion might give some insight into whether and how it might defer to other political branches on immigration issues.

Texas House Approves a Doomed Abortion Law: Why?

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Cornell University law professor Sherry F. Colb discusses legislation recently approved by the Texas House that will almost certainly be struck down as unconstitutionally restricting women's right to seek an abortion prior to fetal viability. Colb explains that the legislation is more speech than it is law and discusses some possible reasons the state would want to “speak” in this manner.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mr. No-Government President Discovers the Government

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Marci A. Hamilton, a Fox Distinguished Scholar in the Fox Leadership Program at the University of Pennsylvania, describes how the separation of powers built into U.S. democracy is working as it should to prevent abuses of power by, at this time, the executive. Hamilton points out that federalism—the balance of power between state and federal government—also plays a significant role in curbing abuses of power.

Another New Federalism Flashpoint: State and Local Laws Targeting Entities that Assist in “Building the Wall”

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Illinois Law dean and professor Vikram David Amar comments on recent actions by state and local governments to oppose federal policies, such as the immigration and the wall along the U.S.–Mexico border. Amar argues that these attempts likely run contrary to the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by attempting to interfere with the execution of federal policy.

Equality for All: Federal Appeals Court Holds in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College That Title VII Prohibits LGBT Discrimination

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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 Seventh Circuit, sitting en banc, in which it unequivocally held that Title VII prohibits LGBT discrimination. Grossman describes the history leading up to this momentous decision and applauds the court for getting it right.

Trump Wants Immunity

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John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, comments on attempts by President Trump’s lawyers to defer civil lawsuits against him until after his presidency ends. Dean compares the lawsuit to similar ones filed against former Presidents Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon.

An English Teacher Corrects Shakespeare

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Chapman University, Fowler School of Law, professor Ronald D. Rotunda critiques an English professor at Northern Arizona University for insisting that a student use the word “humankind” rather than “mankind.” Rotunda points out that the origin of the English word “man” encompasses both sexes and that for English professors (or any instructor) to force students to use certain words and shun others is an abuse of the power of words.

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